Man is not the omniscient master of the planet, who can get away with doing whatever he likes and whatever may suit him at the moment.
(Václav Havel at the Environment for Europe conference, 1991)
The series of photographs called De-creazione was made by Josef Koudelka for the Holy See Pavilion, the Vatican’s first presentation at the Venice Biennale, in 2013. In addition to inviting Koudelka, the Vatican Museums also commissioned the Italian art group Studio Azzurro and the Australian painter Lawrence Carroll to join this project. The artists were asked to submit works on three themes inspired by the Book of Genesis - Creazione, De-creazione, and Ri-creazione. For this, Koudelka chose a topic he has devoted himself to intensively for thirty years and has so far summarized in fifteen published books: irreversible changes human beings have made to landscapes.
Koudelka’s De-creazione is a series of eighteen photographs, comprising nine large horizontal panoramas (91 x 257 cm) and three vertical triptychs (158 x 150 cm). It covers three main topics that Koudelka has chosen to express the idea of destruction: the influence of time in human history and the natural environment, including changes brought about by earthquakes and other natural disasters, which have affected us for centuries; wars, walls, and other barriers we build, emblematic of our fears and hatreds; and, ultimately, two opposites – the natural world and the industrial world –, which have long been in conflict with each other, no less painfully and destructively than other conflicts. By means of these large-format pictures, Koudelka’s sensitive involvement in his topics draws attention to the imbalance in the relationship between human beings and the natural environment, and also reveals the human inclination to destruction. ‘Just as there are crimes against humanity, so too there are crimes against landscapes. How people try to justify these crimes or what they call them is not so important. People can defend themselves, but a landscape cannot,’ says Koudelka.
For their work on this project, Josef Koudelka thanks: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (President of the Pontifical Council for Culture), Antonio Paolucci, Micol Forti (Vatican Museums), Alessandra Mauro, Roberto Koch, Peter MacGill, Lauren Panzo (PACE/MacGill Gallery, New York), Lawrence Barth, Irena Šorfová.