3. When The Power Has Gone 2018/2024

3. When The Power Has Gone, 2018/2024

Book Dummy: When The Power Has Gone ( 2018/2024)

On the 9th of November 2024, we commemorate the 35th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Over time, certain aspects of the narrative and conditions that defined everyday life in East Germany before 1989 have faded. Memories have blurred, perceptions have shifted, and the impact of those times has become less visible as old restrictions have been dismantled or replaced with new ones.

In 2024, there has been a surge of new books rewriting the history of the GDR, portraying life in East Germany as relatively pleasant. I find myself puzzled by the success of this narrative in the UK, as it glorifies the "Socialist Experiment" and paints an idyllic picture of life under dictatorship. This idealised portrayal contradicts the fundamental values of privacy, self-determination, individualism, and autonomy that defines the idea of the British Way of Life.

With each passing year since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the reality of life in the former East seems to grow more distant in people's memories. There's a tendency to romanticise memories and downplay one's own complicity in the system. Is this a way of justifying inaction against the regime? Despite the abundance of evidence available, the effects of the regime are often minimised, with sentiments like "It didn't happen to me, and if you spoke out, you knew the risks."

Reflecting on my life before 1989 while living in the UK, I realise that my past in the GDR still influences my decision-making, feelings of displacement, and lack of confidence. I struggle to fully integrate into the society I now inhabit.

Born in the 1960s in the German Democratic Republic, my generation grew up on one side of a divided Germany, unaware of life on the other side. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, my roots, planted in a totalitarian system, became obsolete. The experience of East German totalitarianism has been distilled into mere statistics, printed on leaflets distributed in museums. The culture in which I was raised and worked as a teacher now feels like a relic behind glass, accessible only through ticketed admission.

Both the victims and the perpetrators of this former political system now exist only as data: impersonal facts and figures.

My photographic work serves as a means of reflecting on my personal experience of living in East Germany under dictatorship for 26 years.
I delve into the emotional repercussions of restrictions and control, working with historical materials sourced from personal and public archives.

For the series "File 121487," I manipulated facsimiles of my own secret file, containing meticulous photocopies of correspondence and index cards documenting the evidence the Stasi found while searching through my mail. In "Beyond Orwell," I created photographs of three-dimensional objects based on formerly secret data about controlling citizens, transforming them through physical interference. "Die Wunderbaren Jahre" features photographs of deconstructed film rolls containing my hand-copied writing from forbidden East German authors. In "Archiving Power," I manipulated coded lists of Stasi employees, and in "KO71," photographs of paternoster cabinets containing the card index system of the Stasi.

I opted not to take a purely documentary approach to this material. While autobiographical elements undoubtedly inform this body of work, my primary focus was on the formal and structural aspects of the retrieved data.
I aimed to transform this information into abstract, visual formations, creating something simple and beautiful as a juxtaposition to the destructive violence of the regime under which we lived.

List of Works

File 1214/87, 2018

image size 68X48cm, Giclée ink jet print on INNOVA White Matte 285g

Beyond Orwell, 2018

image size 68X48cm, Giclée ink jet print on INNOVA White Matte 285g

Archiving Power, 2018

image size 68X48cm,Giclée ink jet print on INNOVA White Matte 285g

K071, 2018

up to 20 plates each 70X100cm ,Giclée ink jet print on INNOVA White Matte 285g

Die wunderbaren Jahre, 2018

image size 60X60 cm, Giclée ink jet print on INNOVA White Matte 285g