The landscape imagery in the photographs and videos of the Punishment series recall the paintings of the Romantic period: craggy mountains, deep gorges, the sea, and mountain lakes. These are large- format, classical motifs of nature, in which one sees a lone person with a whip. Julius von Bismarck is energetically whipping a small piece of the majestic landscape to the point of physical exhaustion. The artist and his whip are dwarfed by the powerful background.
The work was originally exhibited as a video, to which the Swiss writer Dorothee Elmiger wrote and recited a poem (p. 30) that underscores the rhythm of the whip. The text makes reference to the Persian King Xerxes I, who in 480 BC had ordered that the sea be whipped as a punishment for having destroyed a recently built bridge during a storm.
The series was later continued in a different setting. On Liberty Island in New York the artist began whipping the base of the towering Statue of Liberty and was soon arrested.