Saturday, 7 May 2011

books, memories and smell

Considering formats of presentation. Last week, I was surrounded by personal history files collected by the East German secret police Stasi. These files are now stored at the government archive in an East Berlin district, in a block occupied by Stasi as their HQ. 

The Stasi building complex in Lichtenberg, Berlin

There is a distinctive smell of old paper as I enter one of the storage rooms, of the files that altered many lives,  that brings thoughts about Berlin's history and how it deals with its past, of the people's experiences I have heard in my interviews.

Based on this experience, I plan to try out variations of exhibiting using old books and documents, screens, to link memories, emotions. One idea is to cut out a book to fit a screen into it, so that depending on the pages you turn, different parts of the screen becomes visible. Sound enhances the clips I've been testing, and I could possible use smell also, to engage with the audience better.

I think of photographing the shredded/torn pieces on my next visit. Günter Bormann, who interviewed at the BStU library, says people's interests towards the files are changing after 20 years of unification, and not fading away. Perhaps how people perceive history - and the process of German unification - is changing over time also.

BStU [2011] Öffentliche Führungen. [Online]
Curry, A. (2008) Piecing Together the Dark Legacy of East Germany's Secret Police. [Online]
Faber, M. (2010) Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer – review. [Online] [07/05/2011]
Matas, M. (2011) Mike Matas: A next-generation digital book. [Online] [07/05/2011]
Sinclair, M. (2011) Tree of Codes: the making of a die-cut book [Online] [07/05/2011]

Stafford, N. (2007) Anti-shredder aims to stick spy files back together. [Online]