Christiane Zschommler

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An investigation of a conspiracy between a previous GDR citizen with a citizen in the GDR

An investigation of whether my postal address was used as a mail drop

department XX was responsible for the security and control of the government departments,

search for sender/recipient

department M was responsible for the controls and analysis of international and national circulation of mail

referring to the page number of the file

referring to the page number of the file

referring to the page number of the file

referring to the page number of the file

referring to the page number of the file

referring to the page number of the file

189,000 ‘Unofficial Collaborators’ (IMs).

The total number of employees of The Stasi nationally was around 97,000

139 people died at The Berlin Wall between 13th August 1961 and 9th November 1989.

327 people were killed at the internal border between former East and West Germany.

negative attitude towards the GDR,

refers to my work as a teacher; not being prepared to educate students using socialist propaganda

unsuitable to work as a teacher;,order to be removed from the school

sympathise with the polish clergy; refers to a letter I send to my uncle about my work experience in Warsaw, Poland in 1984

F. did not influence Z. to apply for relocation in the FRG

Christiane Zschommler

Under Surveillance

Born in the 1960s, in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), my generation was brought up on one side of a divided Germany, without knowing the other.

Even after almost 30 years following the fall of The Wall, the State Security Service (Stasi) acts as a global synonym for the modern police state. They operated above the law with no respect for privacy. Besides opening personal mail, they utilised various methods of surveillance including bugging peoples’ bedrooms in order to blackmail them, conducting home searches and leaving discreet signs of their presence to intimidate the monitored individual. These methods were ‘open secrets’; they knew everything about everyone for the sole purpose of protecting the East German socialist dream.

By choosing to forego a documentary approach to the content of my own secret file and former government statistics I aim to create a different relationship between the documents and the viewer. The removal of parts of sensitive information from the image changes the way it is perceived.

Although this body of work clearly has an autobiographical dimension, I did not want to approach the subject matter from a purely retrospective, self-focused point of view.

Rather, working through it formally by layering parts of the information or focusing on the abstract shapes, forms and textures within the outlines of the original pages of my file; thereby creating something simple and beautiful which acts as a counterpoint to the destructive violence experienced in the previous regime.

The images in this portfolio have the sense of being monitored; the constructed and enfolding layers leaving the collected information unclear and uncertain to the viewer. This echoes my own uncertainties, a constant source of fear, about whether recorded, intimate information about me was being held in a secret file and the extent that individuals outside the Stasi network provided information about my everyday life.

Both these themes and this existential human state are very much alive and present today, with the vast amounts of personal data which modern governments, organisations and corporations are tracking, capturing, reading — and storing.

Spying on the private lives of citizens and the capture and use of sensitive, personal information by government agencies and commercial organisations are increasing in scale and sophistication at an alarming rate.

Giclée ink jet prints on archival INNOVA White Matte 285gsm,


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