stainless steel, 147 x 132 x 0.8 cm
A disk made from stainless steel has been placed across a pathway through the well-tended park of the old estate. It has the default grey of 3D-programs and looks a bit out of place. A little bit like an apparition from another world.
Its point of origin is a digital photograph that I took of a parabolic antenna. That antenna is part of a large site run by the German intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) in the small town of Schöningen, near Braunschweig. According to reports that have only recently become public it is being used for the surveillance of satellite communication.
It's only as of late that the BND publicly admits that it runs the surveillance compound. Before it was said to be run by the "Bundesamt für Fernmeldestatistik", a fake government institution supposedly dealing with communication statistics. I grew up in a neighbouring village. I had no idea, but a lot of people knew. In any case, it was never something worth talking about. It was only in the light of the ongoing revelations about the unconstitutional activities of the secret services of Western nations that the BND felt compelled to a 'transparency offensive', during which they replaced the sign on the gate. This seems to bring the abstract doings of the intelligence agencies in graspable reach. Except that what they are really doing, the 'full-take' of all digital communication, the undermining of security standards, the infiltrating, infecting, and so on, is not being acknowledged. After all these reports it's still not comprehensible and will probably remain abstract. This work takes place in the network, as mathematical computations in random access memory, and is not accessible to human senses.
Similarly unfathomable are the internal workings of the software that was used to produce the steel artefact. The initial photograph was re-rendered in a series of programs until it reached a format that could be used by a laser CNC machine. This then cut the digital information into the steel plate. But the repeated translation into different mathematical spaces of various programs and then back into the world inhabited by human beings has left its marks.
The geometrically perfect half-sphere of the parabolic antenna is flattened by photography, and the perspectival and optical distortion has produced an irregular form. The scale is all wrong, too; the disk is too small.
The pixels of the photo bitmap are still discernible. They told me that the heavy machine head of the laser cutter had shuddered for hours to display the pixel blocks. The stainless steel plasma left razor sharp edges behind.
All that remains of the highly plastic high-tech antenna is a flat, inoperable disc. It's the direction from which the spectator approaches that determines whether it's possible to recognise the original. A picture puzzle that depends on the perspective. On a fully frontal photo it's easiest to read as a three dimensional body. The actual object leaves you perplexed and doubtful.
What happens in this moment of decryption, when you recognise that there is a photographic original? Is the steel disc a kind of replica then, or does that only form in your mind? Is it a reproduction of the parabolic dish in Schöningen, or its ghost?