Title: The Sota Project Author: Ofri Cnaani Publisher: Sternthal Books Theme: Quebec and Canadian art Format: Hardcover Pages: 178 Language: English Release date: January 2011 ISBN: 9780986483516
The Sota Project is a beautifully finished art book that retells an anonymous story from the Talmud about two sisters named Sota and Bekhorah. Legend has it that when Sota's husband accused her of infidelity, she appeared unexpectedly at her sister Bekhora's door. Sota explains that her husband suspects her of being unfaithful, and is taking her to the holy temple in Jerusalem to drink from the Bitter Water. If the women drinking this concoction had been unfaithful, then she would blow up on the spot; were she to be found innocent, she would be blessed with a child. As Sota explains her predicament, Bekhora does not question her. Thus we do not know whether she is guilty or innocent. Bekhora offers to go in her place. They change their clothes, and she duplicitously accompanies her husband to Jerusalem. They arrive at the Holy of Holies, and unbeknownst to her husband, the High Priest gives Bekhora the Bitter Water. She drinks from it, and nothing happens. The husband's suspicions are laid to rest, and they go back home. After the ordeal she returns to her sister to inform her that everything had turned out well, and they kiss each other. Once their mouths touched, the Bitter Water touched the accused, and the sister exploded on the spot. She was unfaithful, and justice was done. The book opens with an essay by art historian James Trainor, which is followed by ten thematically divided sections - each one corresponding to a line from the original Talmudic verse. Each section contains excerpts from the film's script, as well as commentaries from a variety of scholars and academics. The visual retelling of the story is made up of photographs from Cnaani's film which are hidden under gatefolds. When they are opened, they reveal striking visual panoramas that provide a contemporary re-telling of the story.