Simon Menner. Surveillance complex (10.09 — 02.10)

Simon Menner
Surveillance complex

For two years (2011-2012), the German artist Simon Menner worked with the archives of the State
Security Service, commonly known as the Stas. It is one of the most effective organizations of its kind
with more than 90,000 agents employed in the 1980s. However, after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it ceased to exist. Nowadays, 30 years later, the artist reveals to the public the data stored in these archives – until recently classified as “top secret”.

“Surveillance Complex” photographs document the surveillance agents’ activities. The Stasi employees found images to be an effective and convenient medium used at all the stages of their work: from training to the internal affairs and field work. “Disguise Seminar” demonstrates what clothes one was supposed to put on to become “invisible” in the crowd. The portraits with unrecognizable faces present a series of typical characters – a policeman, a worker, a doctor, an official, etc.

The part entitled “How to give Secret Signals” features a figure turning to the audience with his back.
Three photographs differ from one another in small changes in the positions of the hands. Each of them is a signal used by agents in communication.

“Accolade of the Phone Surveillance Unit” section is a documentation of an unofficial award ceremony for employees.

Due to the time that has passed from the moment these images were taken, the changed aesthetics,
and often the photographs poor quality, all of them sometimes look ironic, or ridiculous, and illustrate not only the well-known “banality of evil”, but also its absurdity. Simon Menner himself commented, “It is important not to lose sight of the original intentions behind these images. For me, the banality of some of them gives an even more disgusting effect”.

Simon Menner brings to the public space photographs that were not originally intended for this.
Viewers unexpectedly find themselves in the position of observer’s observer.
“Surveillance Complex” project is not just reconstructing the Stasi archive. It forms a bridge between
the organizations of the Cold War era and a current state, where the boundaries between the private and the public are blurred with the former often invaded. Thus, the reconstruction of the past turns out to be “an assemblage point” of the present.


Simon Menner has studied fine arts at the Universität der Künste Berlin and the School of the Art
Institute Chicago. In many of his projects he is dealing with the visual culture of repressive systems,
such as surveillance organizations or terror groups, and the way images are used to alter our perception in contemporary conflicts. His work has been shown internationally in museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago, Museum for Photography Berlin, Bauhaus Museum Weimar, Benaki Museum Athens, NRW Forum Düsseldorf, or the Anchorage Museum.


10.09 — 02.10
“Ў” Gallery
12:00 – 21:00, daily

“Ў” Gallery, 19:00