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These objects remained inapproachable because they were endowed with the same kind of »dark energy« that keeps driving the entire universe.
Benjamin attributed the decay of the aura to urban life and the masses’ desire for instant instrumentality. This is how religions lost their grip and icons their secret. Klein’s challenge was to experiment with some element of the aura in a world that doesn’t tolerate it, and which actually does everything it can to make it impossible. There’s something outwardly Byzantine about Klein’s photographs. The aureole appended to the farmer’s head, like the white hair around the black faces, could have been painted in gold. Obviously Klein couldn’t recreate the kind of distance Benjamin was talking about through subject matter alone. Even art has ceased to be a self-generated cult, and has tied down its value with the market.
In contemporary society, only the fragility and lushness of the photographic texture, a built-in resistance to reproduction, could possibly allow for some kind of singular experience. The very small for- mat that Klein chose for this series is a snub to exchangeability (size adds to value). It also compels the viewer to stop and look at her photographs from up close instead of glancing at them quickly from a distance.
It isn’t easy to tell who the people in Klein’s pictures are. It is obviously their glow, not their gender or identity that counts most. They seem to be looking ahead with a blank stare, but they have no face. All that is left is a black slab. There’s nothing personal about these women, if that’s what they are. They are non-persons. Are they alive or dead? Are they even real? A few details could tip us off. The young woman lying down on a bed, legs apart has her head pinned to the wall. All these women are dummies in various garbs. Klein could tell you how her rag doll has been positioned for each picture – tilted on a chair by invisible threads, held erect by a stake, or a simple coathanger.