Stasi / Facebook / Big Data DAAD Day 2 – The Stasi’s automatic letter opener invention

The former East Germany’s Ministry for State Security (more popularly referred to as the MfS or “Stasi”) is widely known for the inventive and clandestine gadgets that appear in films like Das Leben der Anderen (English: The Lives of Others) or on exhibit at the Stasi Museum in Berlin. Some of my favorites from the museum are the cameras disguised as everyday, boring objects. Take this watering can with a hidden camera.

Imagine a sweet old Oma in her garden, tipping the can just so, with the intention of spying on the grandma next door. This technologically-enabled interpersonal collection of data of our “friends” was very much like how Facebook operates today. The Stasi used blackmail to infiltrate networks and get people to give up their neighbors, while Facebook coerces us in different ways; for example, through algorithms that implore us to post details from our private lives in order to build up one’s cultural capital and sense of self worth. I’ll explore this connection more in later weeks, particularly in reference to a special type of behind the scenes inventions of the Stasi: a series of machines that automatically opened personal letters and closed and resealed them after their contents were examined.

In this project, a central question is what do the motivations and methods of this machine, which was used to intercept and automate the secret unpacking and examination of personal information of letters between private citizens, tell us about how the software used by the NSA for monitoring citizens around the globe? Or about the even more secretive methods of Google or Facebook as they examine our personal information in order to influence our behavior? Until tomorrow.

Stasi / Facebook / Big Data DAAD Day 1 – Willkommen in Deutschland

This is the first post in a long time. Over the next two months I will add one every day while I’m working on a new stage of an ongoing project I began in Berlin in 2010. I haven’t posted like this in a while. I find it extremely helpful to share and collect research, create an arc for the work, and of course to stay focused. While the project will evolve as I add content to this space, I’ll share the essential bits from my plans here:

This proposal for a DAAD grant will support research and a series of writings and visualizations that examine how the technological inventions of the East German Ministry for State Security preempt Facebook, the NSA, and the world of Big Data. I will work at Humboldt University and the Stasi Records Agency (BStU) in Berlin and the Museum at the Round Corner in Leipzig, researching and documenting the schematics and actual machines developed by the Stasi for surveillance. With this knowledge I will frame an investigation that uses the analog devices of the Stasi to lend insight into the methods implemented today as software by social media, advertising groups, and intelligence agencies in the service of domestic surveillance and censorship.

I feel super fortunate to be able to continue this project I started almost seven years ago thanks to support from the German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD (German: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ernst at the Institute of Musicology and Media Studies at Humboldt University Berlin.

Stasi files at the BStU. These are not the personal files the Stasi collected, but notes, diagrams, and parts lists detailing the inventions and processes developed during the Stasi’s almost 40 year reign.

“Google” one-week performance at Transmediale

I am tele-participating in a one-week online performance of Google queries at Transmediale 2012 in Berlin. The project, plainly titled, “Google,” is organized by Johannes P. Osterhoff and will run from Jan 30 to Feb 5, 2012. Each participant edits the search method for their browser search bar so that everything they type in this box, from the personal to the mundane, becomes instantly visible at

The project (“manifesto” below) makes public what Facebook, Google, and any online search engine, crowdsourcing website, or social network already does by harvesting searches from users, and re-representing that data in a new context. While Google uses these queries to build and sell condensed user demographic data to advertisers, Osterhoff’s project asks, who actually owns your search data?

We shall do an one-week performance piece.

The piece is called “Google” and documents all searches we perform withthe search engine of the same name.

The performance shall take place during transmediale 2012 and shall start on Monday, January 30 and shall end on Sunday, February 5, 2012.

We shall not use undocumented ways to use the search engine Google during this time.

Each of our search queries shall create a web page that is indexed by this search engine and thus makes our searches publicly available as search results for everybody.


A Single Composite [vert]

Finally finding time to edit documentation from A Single Composite exhibition this summer in Berlin.

A Single Composite is a series of kinetic installations and projection apparatuses that stretch, twist, and loop film strips containing declassified and other found reconnaissance footage. Using reconstituted digital printer chassis, this cinematic enterprise is projected on walls, ceilings, and floors, to form a series of individual moments of surveillance and implied violence.

Keine Z E I T / No TIME

Through A Glass Darkly will be included in an international exhibition next month in Berlin, Germany.

Keine Z E I T / No TIME
Time phenomena. Phenomena of time.

The fourth international, interdisciplinary and topic centered exhibition of G.A.S-station.

48 Positiones out of science, art and literature.

Erik Andersen (Ger), video – Ewelina Aleksandrowicz, Andrzej Wojtas (UK), video – Elisa Asenbaum (A), video/installation – Thomas Bedürftig (Ger), science – Axel H. Bertram (Ger), video – Hubert Blanz (Ger), video – Thomas Born (Ger), fine art – Udo R. Bruening (Ger), performance – Amandine Crozat (FR), fotografie – Franz Embacher (A), science – Oliver Feigl (Ger), video – Volker Frechen (Ger), audio installation – Peter Funken (Ger), publicist – Bruno Goosse (BE), video – John Greiner (US), literature – Stephan Groß (Ger), video – Marion Habringer, E. Asenbaum (A), installation – Heiko Hecht (Ger), science – Anna Elisa Heine (Ger), literature, lecture – Batya Horn, Edition Splitter (A), literature – Helen Acosta Iglesias (ES), installation, – IMAGO e.V., Anne-Katrein Maschke, Ina Krauß (Ger), fashion, performance – Britta M. Ischka (A), video – Grace Kim (US), video – Ina Krauß (Ger), audio-collage – Renate Krätschmer, Elli Schnitzer (A), installation – Till Kreutzer (Ger), science – Verena Kuni (Ger), webproject, lecture – Anna Maria Kursawe (Ger), painting – Team K.U.SCH. (A), video – Wolfgang Marktl (A), science – Owen Mundy (US), video – Wolfgang Neipl (A), video – Julia Nuss (Ger), fine art – Jerzy Olek (PL), fine art, video – Herbert Pietschmann (A), science – Arnold Reinthaler (A), fine art – Hartmut Rosa (Ger), science – Miriam Schwedt (Ger), fotografie – Christiane Spatt (A), fotoinstallation – Renée Stieger (A), installation – Ralf Tekaat (Ger), drawing – Guichard Thibaud (FR), performance – Tomax (A), installation – Mirko Tzotschew (Ger), fotografie – Burchard Vossmann (Ger), fine art – Gisela Weimann (Ger), literature, reading – Peter Whittenberger (US), video

Vernissage: October 7th 2011 – 7 pm
Exhibition: October 8th 2011 until Februar 4th 2012


Berlin: Thomas STUCK, Fon: 030 221 609 312 Mov: 0160 995 78 158

Vienna: Elisa ASENBAUM, Fon: 0043 1 533 56 77

A Single Composite, May 7–June 24, Bauer&Ewald, Berlin

This week I am installing an ambitious new project in a quaint and friendly space called bauer&ewald located in Kreuzberg / Neuköln (Berlin) opening on May 7 until the end of June. There will be a party on the evening of the opening day. Please come if you are in town.

You can see a video of a small study online here and here.

A Single Composite
Owen Mundy

May 7–June 24

Vernissage (opening): May 7, 19:00+
Finissage (closing): June 23, 19:00+

“Nothing now distinguishes the function of the weapon and the eye; the projectile’s image and the image’s projectile form a single composite.”
—Paul Virilio in “War & Cinema”

A Single Composite is a kinetic installation and multi-projection/viewing apparatus consisting of one 100cm wide film strip stretched, twisted, and looped through multiple spaces by reconstituted digital printer chassis. This cinematic enterprise, a sprawling film through which declassified and other found reconnaissance footage is projected on walls, ceilings, and floors, forms a series of individual moments of surveillance and implied violence.

Lenaustraße 20
12047 Neukölln-Berlin
u8 schönleinstraße, u7/u8 hermannplatz

Öffnungszeiten (open hours):
Mo-Sa ab 18:00, So ab 16:00
jeweils bis spätnachts (until late)