Ange Leccia : »Arrangement Stasi«, 1990
by Thomas Y. Levin
Having become known in the 1980s for his symmetrical installations of objects from the worlds of design and consumer culture - from searchlights and soccer-goal nets to motorcycles, cars, planes and even [at the 1987 Münster Skulptur Projekte] industrial harvesting machines - in 1990, only months after German reunification, the Corsican Ange Leccia responded to this dramatic geo-political shift with yet another set of identical objects placed »face to face«: a sober montage of two East German closed-circuit surveillance camera units. Using the signature TFK 500 RFT transistor camera hardware complete with all-weather housing which he acquired from the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit [Ministry for State Security] or STASI - equipment so robust and time-tested that this product of the VEB Studiotechnik in Berlin became one of the DDR’s all-too-rare export items - Leccia places two units on the wall barely a meter apart such that the only thing visible within each camera’s field of vision is the lens of its unblinking Doppelganger. The descriptive sobriety of the title of this highly evocative installation - which is simply named Arrangement Stasi - stands in marked contrast to those of other similar mirroring confrontations by Leccia whose formal symmetry and proximity is often coded with more-or-less programmatic appellations such as The Kiss or The Conversation. This is all the more striking, given the patently allegorical character of the installation’s staging of the thoroughly involuted GDR surveillance system, a security apparatus that at its height employed more than 50% of the entire East German population. Indeed, the catatonic reflexivity of the real-time output of these cameras to the attached monitors or »Fernbildschreiber« [as they were called in the official jargon] which consists entirely and exclusively in the static and information-poor image of its own optics, invokes quite directly the over or perhaps better under - »arrangement« of the massively bureaucratic STASI which was also ultimately suffocated by its own inability to process the sheer volume of the massive amounts of data it gathered. As such Leccia’s installation simultaneously points out the striking shift that has taken place in surveillant economies in what one could call the pre- and post-Echelon eras, the key characteristic of the Stasi’s now seemingly anachronistic incompetence having been largely solved with the rise of digital communications and the ability to do targeted searches on vast quantities of data from multiple sources [fax, telephone, email, etc] using fully automated, key-word-driven sniffer programs.