Under surveillance — Four&Sons

Under surveillance

As well as inspiring fear and paranoia during its reign, more recently, the German Stasi has inspired art. Dog-based art.


Under surveillance

The Stasi (or German Ministry for State Security) was a repressive intelligence and secret police agency that acted as ‘big brother’ over the German Democratic Republic (or East Germany) for around 40 years from 1950. But as well as inspiring fear and paranoia during its reign, more recently, the Stasi has inspired art. Dog-based art.

After German reunification in 1990, the Stasi’s files – including everything from intercepted telephone conversations to the stolen underwear of suspects – were laid open to the public. Photographer and visual artist Jens Klein began exploring the archive for information about an unsolved bank robbery project he was working on. But what he found most fascinating were the surveillance photographs.

“I began wondering if pictures taken to secretly observe people could tell something about daily life in the GDR. Their original purpose was to monitor suspected regime opponents, yet they also show to the contemporary observer scenes of daily life from a country that no longer exists,” Jens explained.

What struck him as the most “ordinary” aspect of the surveillance were shots of people walking their dogs, and he used these to create a photographic work called Spaziergänger (Stroller) and a narrative titled Hundewege: Index eines konspirativen Alltags (Dogwalks: An Index of Conspiratorial Everyday Life) .

“Dog walkers are people doing something you repeat every day. I found out during my research that they were all normal people who happened to be monitored by the secret service for apparently no reason,” he said. “This is the ordinary, uncanny, absurd part of state surveillance.”

Hundewege: Index eines konspirativen Alltags by Jens Klein
All images courtesy of Jens Klein
Published by Institut für Buchkunst

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