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Indepth Arts News:

"Outer and Inner Space Exhibition: Jane and Louise Wilson, Stasi City"
2002-06-21 until 2002-08-18
Virginia Museum of Fine Art
Richmond, VA, USA

The final segment of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ three-part video-art exhibition opens with a free public preview Friday, June 21, featuring “Stasi City,” a major 1997 work by English artists Jane & Louise Wilson (b. 1967). Part three of the exhibition will continue through Aug. 18. The preview will feature the first look at the museum’s most recent video acquisition, internationally renowned artist Bill Viola’s “The Quintet of the Unseen.” The work will be on view in the museum’s Modern and Contemporary Galleries.

“Stasi City” uses two pairs of simultaneous projections in opposite corners of the gallery to present a dynamic and disorienting view of the abandoned headquarters of the former East German secret police, the Stasi. In surrounding viewers with four projections, the work allows the viewers to vicariously assume the role of all-seeing eyes, a role played relentlessly in real life by the Stasi in its continual surveillance of East German citizens before the country’s downfall in 1989, says John Ravenal, organizer of the exhibition and curator of Modern and Contemporary art at the museum.

The third installment of “Outer & Inner Space” also presents single channel videos by Peter Campus, Dan Graham, Mary Lucier, Bruce Nauman, Marcel Odenbach, Richard Serra, Steina, Bill Viola and other artists. Many of the videos explore the relation between vision, control and power raised by “Stasi City.”

“The Wilsons – identical twins who work together – were living in Berlin when they became aware of historical architecture connected to the Cold War and the way it mapped political distinctions between East and West,” Ravenal says. “Through diplomacy and charm, they gained entry into the abandoned secret police headquarters, a walled complex known as ‘Stasi City.’

“It proved to be the ideal location for the Wilsons to explore what has been described as the architecture of repressed memory,” Ravenal explains. In its use of multiple, paired images and its focus on a real historical location, “Stasi City” marked the Wilsons’ arrival at a mature style, according to Ravenal. “It continues to be one of their most critically acclaimed works,” he says.


The Wilsons have exhibited extensively in Europe and the United States. Their works have been shown at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Serpentine Gallery in London and the Kuntsverein Hannover in Germany. One of their works was previewed at London’s Tate Gallery in the Turner Prize shortlist exhibition, the most prestigious award for a British artist under 40.

Stasi City (Interview room partial view Hohenshönhausen), 1997,
by Jane and Louise Wilson;C-type print mounted on aluminum (Courtesy of 303 Gallery)

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