Almost 300,000 people worked for the East German secret police, per capita far more than were employed by agencies such as the CIA or the KGB. Not quite fifty years after the Berlin Wall was built, Simon Menner discovered spectacular photographs in the Stasi archives that document the agency’s surveillance work. Formerly secret, highly official photographs show officers and employees putting on professional uniforms, gluing on fake beards, or signaling to each other with their hands. Today, the sight of them is almost ridiculous, although the laughter sticks in the viewer’s throat. This publication can be regarded as a visual processing of German history and an examination of current surveillance issues, yet it is extremely amusing at the same time. The fact that the doors of the opposite side—the British or German intelligence services, for example—remained closed to the artist lends the theme an explosive force as well as a tinge of absurdity.
Simon Menner was born 1978 in Emmendingen, State of Baden-Württemberg, Germany lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
Hatje Cantz publishes art, photography, design, and architecture books with a focus on contemporary art.