A b o u t  T h e  P r o j e c t

The Seven Deadly Sins

A Contemporary Exploration in Staged Photography (EIKON/No 54 - 2006/Anna Stuhlpfarrer)




“To choose deliberately—that is, both knowing it and willing it—something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin. This destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death “ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1874)

The seven deadly sins: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and envy. Ever since the early medieval period, these have been seen as the root of all evil. In terms of moral theology, the seven deadly sins are correctly termed “serious sins,” for they are the source of all other sins and vices.

Lukas Maximilian Hüller attempts to approach them, question them, and adequately place them in our current time. The idea for this project already emerged in the late 1990s. The starting point was one of the most famous artistic treatments of the subject—Hieronymus Bosch’s The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things: seven individual scenes from everyday life, each embodying one of humanity’s seven major vices, arranged in a circle around a central depiction of the Man of Sorrows. Lukas Hüller in contrast arranges seven staged photographs. Enormous effort is undertaken in making each individual photograph: in collaboration with the Belgian set designer Etienne Tombeux, detailed screenplays emerge that enable the enactment of the complex stories with intricate scenery and sometimes numerous actors. The sins are realized using the technique of rotational photography, the special focus of this artist, who uses specially adapted or self-built cameras for his work. This allows him to present numerous persons or acts in a single photograph, a single, unmanipulated negative. This panoramic view, reduced to a two-dimensional image, makes it possible to include the fourth dimension in the image—time—giving them a narrative aspect. It is not so far from theater or film, as already shown by the actors participating: Erwin Leder (“Underworld”, “Das Boot”), Jürgen Maurer (Burgtheater Vienna), Willibald Maierhofer (Theater an der Josefstadt, Volksoper Wien), Paulus Manker (“Alma a Showbiz ans Ende”, “Falco”, Burgtheater Wien, Schauspielhaus Bochum, various films & screenplays “Unknown”, “Schlafens Bruder”, ...), Martina Stilp (Schauspielhaus Graz) or fabolous characters as The Tiger Lillies (Martyn Jaques, Adrian Stout & Adrian Huge) from London.

In his engagement with Bosch’s Seven Deadly Sins, central for Lukas Hüller is not a one-to-one interpretation of the panels into the medium of photography, but rather the attempt to reinterpret the central issue, transforming this artistic theme, this artistic statement to fit our present time. Does this catalogue of sins at all correspond to the social and political structure of our time? The representation of the deadly sins as a moral codex: a work commissioned by the Catholic Church, what was the significance of such a codex in its own time, and can it be transferred to the current age? What symbolism can today replace the symbolism of Bosch’s time? Only a few points in the sheer endless catalogue of questions, before the backdrop of which these staged photographs emerge.

“First we use an appropriate iconographic arsenal, just as Bosch did in his time, but at issue here are points of reference and not works that serve as models.” This “iconographic arsenal”—whether individual animals, a mirror, or the crucifix—invites the beholder to examine the images more closely. Over and over, we find ourselves looking for a certain symbol in the other photographs as well, and behold: they are indeed to be found. Not only in the representations of the sins themselves, but also in the four photographs that correspond to Bosch’s four medallions representing Death, Hell, the Last Judgment, and Paradise. But these works also evoke the most various associations with works from other moments in art history: just think of films like Metropolis or Brazil, works by Francis Picabia or from the studio of Van Lieshout, still lifes from past centuries. This list could be continued almost arbitrarily. Some references seem obvious, others remain hidden, some seem intentional. And it is this very complex engagement with the most various artistic disciplines as well as the room for interpretation left to the beholder that make up the quality of the photographs the artist has realized to date.

What emerges is a multiple artwork that goes far beyond the framework of pure photography. Each of Lukas Hüller’s representations of sin is provided with a visual and acoustic accompaniment: visually in video and photography by invited artists who freely approach the seven sins, or their actors and set, and acoustically in sound installation by Otto Trapp and a possible cooperation with The Tiger Lillies. And not least a photographic installation that makes it possible for the beholder to visually enter the center of Bosch’s work: the eye of God. The beholder steps into an image that can be experienced and entered into, finding him or herself in the midst of the seven deadly sins that provide insight into the abyss of human suffering.


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