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Vestiges 1991-2012
January 14, 2013
by Josef Koudelka
Marseille-Provence 2013, European Capital of Culture, is a Euro-Mediterranean project. Artists have therefore been asked to present their visions of Europe and the Mediterranean region.

Josef Koudelka was born in Czechoslovakia, a country with no sea. Between 1991and 2012, he completed a long journey around the nineteen countries bordering the Mediterranean, stopping at over two hundred Greek and Roman archaeological sites. This was an unprecedented exploration. Before Koudelka, nobody had attempted to make such a comprehensive photographic record of these historical vestiges with so much persistence and so little assistance.

In the nineteenth century, Romantic painters had a predilection for ruins. Their paintings glorified this melancholy atmosphere. Koudelka also creates images of ruins. However, he is not a Romantic and does not need melancholy to inspire his art. These relics are not the poignant remains of things that die. They are signs of a situation that art seeks to recreate in the present. Here, on the shores of the “common sea,” this situation is the birth of Europe and its founding principles.

This work builds on what came before it. Koudelka follows the path he took for Exiles, La Mission photographique de la DATAR, La Mission Transmanche and Chaos. This path is marked by landscapes where the grandeur and efforts of humans risk disappearing. Whether Koudelka’s subject is industrial ruins in the north of France or the columns of forums and temples, his aim is not to needlessly document history. His aim is to use art to reappropriate a world that is escaping us and that we could lose – a world where the mind alternates between reason and faith, law and liberty; a world, “whose heaps of rubble and inexhaustible hopes we carry within us” according to Jacques Berque. Transforming rubble into hope – that is what Koudelka achieves in this exceptional journey, the different stages of which are presented in this exhibition.
Bernard Latarget, curator of the exhibition.

Coproduction by Marseille City, Magnum Photos, and Marseille-Provence 2013. In collaboration with the French institutes in the countries concerned. With the cooperation of Picto, Ilford, and Circad. Exhibition’s partners: CIC Lyonnaise de Banque.

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