In 1978 a man climbed a tower onto the Berlin wall, walked along, sat down, and played his harp. Wieland Speck was there filming his action, the curiosity of the onlookers, and the annoyed befuddlement of the border guards. Speck later found the file devoted to this action, called The Harp Player, which contained a long write up and Stasi photographs documenting the action. This fall they are together for the first time in two rooms in an interior courtyard gallery Exile in Kreuzberg, Berlin.
The video is unedited footage of a man dressed in white climbing and sitting to play with the kind of calm, absurd naivete that could have made him a martyr had one of the border guards been particularly vengeful. Certainly it is impossible to watch without apprehension. The Stasi photos in the felt like '70s performance art documentation afterthoughts -completely unremarkable- until the context of the prints was revealed in the viewing room. It is hard to not go back to the prints and look at them as incriminating evidence, and to gaze in attempt to understand the Stasi gaze. What was all this looking and documentation for, just building the future case against a naive artist? And what was the motive of the harpist and Speck? To be in the middle, making art...for sure...but also to perform for the camera, for their files, for the guards, for the spectators who would circulate the story, and for a history they never thought would come to pass. History's closed case on Stasi survellience, the polite gallery audience experiencing their naivete and bravery vicariously.