Richard Mosse: Broken Spectre

NGV International | 30 September 2022 – 23 April 2023

15 August 2022: Co-commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), VIA Art Fund, the Westridge Foundation, and Serpentine Galleries in London, Irish artist Richard Mosse’s world-premiere moving image work, Broken Spectre, is a powerful response to the devastating and ongoing impact of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest. 

Filmed in remote parts of the Brazilian Amazon, the immersive video installation Broken Spectre is the result of three years of careful documentation using a range of scientific imaging technologies. Seeking to overcome the inherent challenges of representing climate change and making visible one of the world’s most crucial yet often ignored environmental emergencies, Broken Spectre is Mosse’s most ambitious work to date and makes its world-premiere in September 2022 at NGV International in Melbourne, Australia.

Richard Mosse, Broken Spectre 2022 (still). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Richard Mosse, Broken Spectre 2022 (still). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Created in collaboration with Australian composer Ben Frost and American cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, Broken Spectre combines and expands upon Mosse’s contemporary art and documentary practices. The work is presented across an immersive 20-metre widescreen panorama, utilising different visually arresting strategies to depict the unfolding crisis.

Piercing vision by satellite cameras show the destruction’s scale and organisation, interspersed by images showing the vibrant matter of interdependent rainforest biome. Environmental frontlines are depicted through the iconography of the Western film genre, transporting the viewer to burning tracts of tropical rainforest.

Richard Mosse, Broken Spectre 2022 (still). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Richard Mosse, Broken Spectre 2022 (still). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, said: ‘The NGV is proud to co-commission this bold new work by Irish contemporary artist Richard Mosse. Broken Spectre is an uncompromising and moving examination of one of the most pressing environmental concerns and prompts viewers to reflect upon the impact and scale of this complex global issue.’ 
Of the world-premiere work, Richard Mosse said: ‘The scale of the catastrophe unfolds in ways that are too vast to comprehend, too minute to perceive, and too normalised to see. The work employs scalar shifts that move between different temporalities of seeing. Broken Spectre presents ecological narratives that shift wavelengths across environmental, anthropocentric and nonhuman violence, to articulate different fronts of destruction at play in the Amazon. Time itself is a crucial part of this catastrophe, as mass deforestation began in earnest in the early 1970s when the military regime built the Trans-Amazonian Highway (Rodovia Transamazônica), opening the primeval forest for development. Only a few generations later, this development has destroyed one fifth of the Amazon rainforest to make way for the cattle, soybean, and mining industries.’

Mosse says, ‘Data gathered by satellites over the last three decades has revealed that within a few years we will reach the very tipping point at which we can no longer save the Amazon. Soon it will no longer be able to generate its own rain, triggering mass forest “dieback” with carbon release at devastating levels, impacting climate change, biodiversity and local communities. This is a world emergency that is entirely man-made.’

Mosse explains that the most confronting moment of the work for him is the scene where a young Indigenous woman from the Yanomami community exclaims, ‘You white people, see our reality. Open your minds. Don’t let us talk so gallantly and do nothing. White people! Tell your fathers and mothers. Explain to them.

Mosse adds, ‘My film examines an intergenerational destruction; a legacy passed on from grandparents to grandchildren. We have only one generation left to save the Amazon rainforest.’

In previous work, Mosse has mapped the journeys of refugees and their camps across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and documented an ongoing cycle of conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Combining reportage and contemporary art photography, he creates images of striking and unsettling beauty that push the boundaries of his craft to try and convey the scale and tragedy of events that are complex and opaque, often working critically with military-grade imaging technology and using camera, film, and sound in unconventional ways.

Richard Mosse: Broken Spectre will be on display from 30 September 2022 to 23 April 2023 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Free entry. Further information is available via the NGV website: NGV.MELBOURNE

Broken Spectre is co-commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, VIA Art Fund, the Westridge Foundation, and by the Serpentine Galleries. Additional support provided by Collection SVPL and Jack Shainman Gallery.


Richard Mosse was born in 1980 in Ireland and is based in New York. He earned an MFA in Photography from Yale School of Art in 2008 and a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, London in 2005. His work has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, Barbican Art Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Recent survey exhibitions were held at Kunsthalle Bremen (2022) and MAST Foundation, Bologna (2021). Recent group exhibitions include Kunstmuseum Basel; ICA Boston; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Akademie der Kunst, Berlin; Hamburger Kunsthalle; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Denver Art Museum; Salaam Kivu International Film Festival, Goma; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

Mosse was the recipient of the Prix Pictet 2017 and winner of the 2014 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize. In 2013, he represented Ireland at the 55th Venice Biennale.

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Founded in 1861, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is the most visited and oldest public art institution in Australia. The NGV is one of the top 20 most visited museum complexes in the world with more than 3 million visitors recorded in 2019. The organisation currently spans across two venues in the City of Melbourne – NGV International on St Kilda Road and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Fed Square. NGV Contemporary, once completed, will from the third site for the organisation, enabling the NGV to present a dynamic schedule traversing contemporary, historic, national and international art and design.

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