Simon Menner (* 1978 in Emmendingen, Germany) has lived and worked in Berlin since 2000. Menner completed his degree in 2008 at the Berlin University of the Arts. Menner works principally with visual material from archives. In the process the artist is interested in how images are used to influence and manipulate people; he investigates these mechanisms with his work.
Interview with Simon Menner
The topic of the festival is “Innere Sicherheit - The State I Am In” – which includes political aspects of “Homeland Security”, but also very personal, private aspects. How do you relate to these issues?
Conflicts have transformed themselves in the 21st century. Our perception has become a battlefield wrestled over by all involved, and fear, in the form of terror, is one of the most important weapons. The participants are concerned with robbing us of the feeling of security, and therefore what I would call, on an entirely personal level, “inner security” is becoming ever more difficult to maintain.
How do you understand your work in the context of “Innere Sicherheit”?
For quite a while already, I have been examining what mechanisms are being used to try to use our own perception against us. Fear can be a weapon which we ultimately, by our own doing, point against ourselves. My concern is not to supply solution approaches; my intention is more to highlight mechanisms.
What role do archives play for you, and how in your opinion should we deal with them?
I find the estimate that says that one quarter of all images ever produced were created in the past twelve months fascinating. That includes everything – from the handprint on the cave wall through to the latest images from a Mars rover. The exponential growth of imaging media, however, will make sure that the next twelve months will again put that in the shade.
At the same time, amid this inundation, archives can represent a certain point of calm. In this context, I’m not including the Internet itself as an archive. Archives that shed light on a certain topic or a certain aspect can very well be treated as an experimental object. After all, it’s not that everything we do is entirely different to what was done before us. Our problems can generally be found in earlier times too.
A big challenge when dealing with archives is the circumstance that certain persons or groups of persons have these under their control and take that as meaning they have interpretational sovereignty. In my view, access to archives is – generally speaking – far too strongly regulated. This is a pity and frequently a missed opportunity.
What is your attitude towards issues of surveillance and control?
What I believe I’ve learned through my work with various archives is that people who practise surveillance or control are people who are in no way different to you and me. They are exactly as prone to reacting to perceived threats with fear and paranoia. This even seems to me to be one of the driving factors of every single system of surveillance. My gut instinct tells me that surveillance, at least in the way that it is represented in the media, is entirely unable to function. Too many humans, with human shortcomings, neuroses and expectations, have a hand in the game here to allow real – because impartial – surveillance to take place. But I may be mistaken.