29 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Ministry of State Security (MfS) or 'Stasi' still endures as a global synonym for a police state.
Participating as a data collector in a totalitarian system was a demonstration of faith in the idea of communism and, therefore, 'progress' and the accompanying belief that the former GDR was a legitimate alternative to the West. By being proactive and obedient, 'normal' citizens, they legitimised the government's surveillance programme and participated in creating a culture of fear and intimidation which damaged the lives of countless numbers of their fellow citizens.
While revisiting and photographing the former headquarters of the Ministry for State Security in Berlin-Lichtenberg,a huge complex with thousands of offices, the familiar smell of tiles, wallpaper, linoleum and utility furniture brought back the same feeling of numbness I always felt when visiting official buildings. Each time I am horrified to learn more about the surveillance the Stasi organised from this site to monitor and control the population and the state power, which left no room for individual values to unfold in the former GDR.
Using my own photographs as starting point. I create images by obscuring the content, following a process of layering or erasing parts of the image, then reducing them to fundamental shapes and forms until there is only a trace of the original remaining.
According to Edward Snowden revelations about the NSA's mass surveillance programme in 2013, it has taken the NSA just a decade to collect an estimated billion times as much data as the Stasi amassed in nearly half a century. The NSA reportedly has the 21st century's fastest computers at its disposal and its extensive databases makes the NSA far more effective than the Stasi ever dreamed of being. Snowden’s disclosures have fuelled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy.
K071 (I to XX, 20 images)
Since 1984 the card index system of The Stasi was organised in paternoster cabinets K071, type KGII 303. They were operated by an integrated electric motor for rapid and efficient access to information. Around 5700 different indexes with 41 million card files have been preserved today. Those were the main work tool for recording, storing and analysing information
20 images printed on innova white are mounted on foam board and floating in 55 X38cm and 8cm deep metal box frames organised in a grid ( 250 X 230cm)