Sodom Series, 2012
Sodom und Gomorrah – cities of such sin that they were punished by God with destruction. There is upright, pious Lot, Abraham’s nephew, who was allowed to save himself with his family from Sodom’s doom. There’s his wife, who despite the divine ban couldn’t check her curiosity and thus froze to a pilar of salt. Finally there are Lot’s two daughters, who got their father drunk in the sheltering cave and “laid with him”, so mankind may survive. Through the ages this violent episode from Genesis has inspired the imagination of many and served as a projection for moral encodings. Sodom and Gomorrah: Their story means something to most anybody, even to those who never read a word from the bible.
In the desert, on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea, where nothing grows anymore and nothing is left but a run-down magnesium mine and a remote resort for skin-disease patients, suddenly a highway sign points to Mount Sodom. Stephanie Kloss drove out there and photographed this inhospitable landscape. Then there’s a rock crevice people named “Lot’s cave”, and even a pillar of salt quite officially associated with that curious woman. Nobody knows for sure just when these places got their names. Biblical archaeologists so far found no evidence for there once having been a city now destroyed. The locations Kloss photographed are “non-locations”; it is a landscape charged with meaning only by way of our own imagination.
There is not indication whatsoever for what once was here. Yet our knowledge of the biblical events lends these photographs an ambivalent, auratic atmosphere. These locations are hostile to man, and dead – by no means you would you want to be there. Kloss’ pictures fascinate in a strange, morbid and almost poisoned way. That’s because of her most artful technique of concentrating and fixating the exceptional in this drab world of ours. The representation of landscape of the Romantic period, charged with myth and meaning, is permanently evoked here.
On occasion of her first presentation of the “Sodom Series” Stephanie Kloss as well exhibits a selection of photographs she took in El Cabrito, on the island of La Gomera. Today an eco-correct holiday resort, but from 1987 to 1990 Otto Mühl lived here with up to 350 adherents to his commune. Realized in 2010, Kloss’ exposures, too, are images of concealed, and missing, traces. Nothing about the banal structures indicates that here Mühl’s social-utopian life-experiment culminated in power-crazed group terror. Children were taken away from their parents and alienated, subjected to painful rituals of discipline, and had to be sexually available for Mühl. In El Cabrito a blanket of silence is laid over these crimes for which Mühl in 1991 in Austria was sentenced to seven years in prison.