tryptech, Breda. Defacement 22 august 1566

Defacing is a series of photographs of religious objects that were destroyed during the Reformation and the Beeldenstorm (Image War) which raged across Europe in several waves in the 16th century. Gert Jan Kocken discovered that very few artworks with visible damage survived. It is striking that, while much has been written about the history of the Reformation and the Beeldenstorm, the damaged artifacts which have survived on the spot (reliefs and paintings) and scratched out missal texts, have rarely if ever systematically been illustrated. The sharpness of Kocken's prints and their format give them a material quality that closely approaches that of the original sculptures and paintings, and makes them even better and more easily visible than in their location in churches, or in museum depots. In the exhibition the emphasis comes to lie on the faces of the saints, chiselled away or scratched out in a way that is as malicious as it is meticulous, while the rest of the image remains almost entirely intact.

Gert Jan Kocken places history and memory in relation to the image. Defacing is a series of photographs that focus attention on the fury that images have provoked in the past. In doing so, he poses questions about the way the image exercises its power today.