Richard Mosse Documents Environmental Catastrophe in the Amazon
At the crux of teetering climate tipping points and mass extinction, widespread ecocide unfolds in the Amazon Basin. Employing his distinctive documentary approach, Richard Mosse traveled to Rio Tigre in the remote northeast of Peru to document oil spills seeping from abandoned pipeline infrastructure on Kichwa Indigenous Territory, deep in the forest.
Alongside these photographs of environmental catastrophe on Indigenous land, the artist carried out a broader examination of the Western nature-culture dichotomy at play in the Amazon. Using the same Geographic Information Systems (GIS) imaging technology as widely used by mining and agribusiness interests in the rainforest, he began photographing domesticated plants within the homes, workplaces and public spaces of people living in the Brazilian city of Belém do Pará, a tropical city at the gateway to the Amazon.
Occidental offers a meditation on Western paradigms that separate nature and culture, one handed down to us from Aristotle and the Old Testament, which has traditionally placed humans and their culture outside of nature. Nature is variously understood as dangerous and in need of taming, colonizing, mastering, or destroying, or conversely as a pure or primordial space only existing in the absence of humans. The devastating consequences of ecological mismanagement by multinational oil companies on Kichwa lands is in stark contrast to their ways of living within nature, which is common among Indigenous peoples. Meanwhile, the cultural veneration and domestication of plants seems antithetical to the forest’s widespread and normalized destruction, carried out by millions, yet may even lie at its roots.
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