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Dani Ploeger - Fronterlebnis

patrol (2017) 16mm film (1’58”), projector, looper

I recorded a firefight on the frontline in East-Ukraine with my smartphone. Soldiers are alternatingly handling mid-20th century firearms and state-of-the-art digital devices. The video footage was transferred to 16mm film, a medium connected to the era of the weapon technologies represented.

artefact (2017) assault rifle handguard, found digital model, digital animation (3’41”)

A wooden handguard from an intensively used Kalashnikov assault rifle is displayed like an archaeological artefact. Abrasion of the varnish shows the points of contact with the hand of the previous owner. A high-resolution 3D scan of the object was inserted into a slick digital model of an AK-47. The weapon rotates against a standard backdrop of a blue sky. Marks of the physicality of warfare re-appear in a digital environment.

Dani Ploeger
From 2017 programme – Control

In 2017, Ploeger made several journeys across Europe to examine the co-existence of conventional weapons and digital culture in everyday life. fronterlebnis – the title refers to Ernst Jünger’s proto-fascist concept of the ‘front experience’ – brings together work in different media that emerged from an encounter with soldiers on the frontline in the Donbass War in Ukraine.

Over the past two years, Ploeger has engaged with the recent (re-)militarization of civilian spaces across Europe in the context of omnipresent digital culture. Heavily armed police officers and soldiers are conspicuously deployed on the streets of Western European metropoles, while a growing number of volunteer militias equipped with Soviet-era weapons are training for – and participating in – conventional war scenarios in Central Europe. Meanwhile, experiences of the public spaces in which these developments take place are highly determined by advanced (mobile) consumer technologies. Starting from his own ambiguous relationship to firearms, which is driven by a paradoxical combination of childhood fascinations and critical theory, Ploeger’s solo show frontlerlebnis examines the ways in which mobile phones, action cameras and other gadgets now co-exist with seemingly old-fashioned weapon technologies and their associated symbolic cults of masculinity, strength and heroism.

Dani Ploeger combines performance, video, computer programming and electronics hacking to investigate and subvert the spectacles of techno-consumer culture. Repurposing, mis-using, and at times destroying everyday devices, his work exposes seemingly banal and taken-for-granted aspects of digital culture as objects of both physical beauty and political power.

Among others, he has worked with traditional metal workers in the old city of Cairo to encase tablet computers in plate steel, attended firearms training in Poland to shoot an iPad with an AK47, made a VR installation while embedded with frontline troops in the Donbass War, and travelled to dump sites in Nigeria to collect electronic waste originating from Europe.

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