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Conspiracy Dwellings: A Portrait of a Model City

Category: ArtExhibitions
Date:     18 December 2007
Time:     10:12 AM


Conspiracy dwellings was organised by British artist Pam Skelton and German scholar Joachim 

The ethos of this exhibition is summed up in the opening paragraph of the catalogue. Skelton unifies 
all the artists through their belief that art portraying historical events can be relevant and important to 
today’s issues. With this in mind they look at surveillance in Germany in the 1980 to 1989 when it was 
under the rule of the former German Democratic Republic (DDR) as being a potential lesson for 
today’s terrorist obsessed society. 

The most interesting work to come out of this exhibition is from someone who knows first hand what 
strict surveillance feels like. Verena Kyselka or, as her Stasi file codenamed her ‘Pigment’, creates 
work centred on her own experiences at the hands of a Ministry of State Security Officer and their IM’s 
the informant who relayed details of her life. She did what anyone subjected to close scrutiny by a 
government body would want to do. She tracked down the people who had been following her, and 
followed them. Although the work in the gallery is actually about her own file and ‘the real facts that lay 
behind the contents of my Stasi file. ’ Kyselka’s work shows the real danger of increased surveillance 
and how the most ordinary human actions can be twisted and misinterpreted until they seem sinister. 

The idea of twisting the roles of hunter and hunted is also used in the 3 large video projections which 
dominate the gallery. At the height of increased surveillance in Germany there were almost 500 
properties in the small German town of Erfut which had Stasi surveillance operating in them. These 
buildings have all been filmed by Skelton and are played in sequence across the gallery walls for 
visitors to watch. A rather simple yet effective idea, especially as seeing the buildings is quite so 
chilling. Not because the buildings look eerie or even evil, but because they look so normal. In fact as 
a visual form of art, they are decidedly lacking. It’s only when you know the background that the videos 
have any meaning and so any effect.

This in itself reflects the nature of the exhibition. The artists have taken an enormous project on a 
serious subject matter and that comes across in the work. The result is the more time you spend 
learning the background and the details, the more effective the work becomes.

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