Written by Darrel Ronald

Stasi Spaces @ FOAM, Amsterdam

Stasi Spaces @ FOAM, Amsterdam by Darrel Ronald

FOAM-Stasi-01
© Daniel and Geo Fuchs; Source: FOAM

Amsterdam’s finest photography museum, FOAM Fotografiemuseum, has what should be an excellent exhibition opening on the 14th March. The new exhibit by Daniel & Geo Fuchs: STASI – Secret Rooms runs until the 4th June 2008, and documents the interior spaces used by the East German Stasi.

FOAM-Stasi-02
© Daniel and Geo Fuchs; Source: FOAM

From the FOAM press release:

From 14 March 2008 Amsterdam’s photography museum Foam presents STASI – Secret Rooms by the German artist duo Daniel & Geo Fuchs. The exhibition opens up the hidden rooms once used by the STASI, the infamous East German secret service, in a series of monumental photos. While much of the former DDR infrastructure has been destroyed, or given an entirely new function, the clandestine spaces that Daniel and Geo Fuchs photographed are still in their original condition. Offices, cell complexes, bunkers, living quarters and interrogation rooms: everything is exactly the way it was before ‘Die Wende’. The typical East European interiors, with their functional furniture and sober colours seem remarkably stylised in retrospect. Yet above all, what this large, intriguing project shows is the symbiosis of architecture, power and impotence.

In January 2004, the Starke Foundation invited Daniel and Geo Fuchs to participate in an artists-in-residence programme in Berlin. Following their successful Conserving and Famous Eyes projects, it was only now that they discovered the full extent of the DDR’s structural heritage in Berlin. Besides the Palast der Republik (the DDR parliament) this consists primarily of offices of the Ministry of State Security (STASI) in Lichtenberg, Bautzen and Hohenschönhausen. Even today many of these places remain practically untouched.

Daniel and Geo Fuchs researched the historical background of these locations and photographed them meticulously with an large format-camera. They used a strict system, photographing each room from the same perspective. Thanks to the subtle framing, apparently insignificant details acquire a new importance and give each picture an unusual interpretation. A red phone, a large, archaic intercom, typically East German furnishings, a solitary calendar; it all seems as if it were deliberately put in place by a fashion-conscious stylist. That the reality is rather more sinister gives these pictures their typically bitter aftertaste: the places we see here are checkpoints, prison cells, and for example the residence and offices of the former minister of state security. Daniel and Geo Fuchs’s extremely precise pictures gradually draw us into the maelstrom as we realise the awesome absurdity of this most recent chapter of German history.

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