Tracing the Dead

The mortal photography by Sarah Sudhoff.

Tracing the Dead

Sarah Sudhoff is a nice-looking girl with the cold veil of Thanatos over her eyes. She is the proverbial still water that not only runs deep but it also is inhabited with the death realm thinkers.

At the age of seventeen I lost a friend to suicide. While visiting his home the day after the tragic news I witnessed a clean up crew steam cleaning the carpet in his bedroom. All physical traces of the past 24 hours had vanished.

Death as process has become the territory of Sudhoff’s philosophical and aesthetic studies. After finding out that the Western society has been avoiding looking at death, she decides to look at it anyway, reminding one of the words said by the historian Philippe Ariès, “death’s invisibility enhances its terror.

Her projects At the Hour of Our Death and Here After are focused on bags of ashes from crematoria, and blood-covered surfaces photographed at scenes of crimes and accidents. Everything is aestheticized despite the artist’s wish to look straight in the eyes of the fate’s prosecutor. It looks like Death wears makeup.

 

Suicide with gun,
Female, 60 years old

Suicide with gun,
Female, 60 years old

01 / 14

 

Here After

Here After

01 / 03

 

The subject of Sudhoff’s other two curious projects is not only her thanatic visions but everything the society does not wish to look at, in general. In 2217, there are presented those people who have some physical handicaps, and in Repository, the artist come forward herself, during the operation on her cancerous uterine neck.

 

2217

2217

01 / 04

 

Repository

Repository

01 / 17

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, the society will benefit from its preventive dialogue with the inevitable. However, wouldn’t it be sly to say that the death could be befriended? It has been present for millennia as an idea and a riddle in different socio-cultural and philosophical canons. Yes, one could accept it as a verdict pronounced under the circumstances’ sword of Damocles. Yet, the drive to avoid death is no less venerable and involved. Is it legitimate to cherish some special or “inevitable” status of death in the times of practical cryonics, and the oncoming technical singularity? The supreme entropy is disputed by them even today, and the perspectives are formed that put humans forward as open systems that will not know entropy.

To close one’s eyes at the threshold of darkness is but a purely decorative measure, an empty and understandable reflex. The rejection of the death itself, though, as a destiny, does not deserve any arrogant reproach as this rejection stems from the deepest nature of the human biological system itself, and the subconscious mediates it. To be aware of the death perspective does not necessarily lead to garlands of dead bodies in order to be intentionally fooled that “everything is alright.” Let humans look into this endless dark as often as they can. However, this therapeutic practice does not mean any mendacious humility, and the death still remains the archenemy. It is not a verdict but a problem, and a task. Is a contemporary human prepared to deal with the tremors of the past once and for all, and challenge the death without being afraid of looking ridiculous?

A bloodied doormat can remind of the death’s existence. It is important to remind, and to remember about it, yet this doormat signifies nothing but an existential failure. In this case, it is quite aesthetic but still.