In 2017, I made several journeys across Europe to examine the co-existence of firearms 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 two journeys through Ukraine, during which I was embedded with soldiers on the frontline in the Donbass War, and explored shopping malls, weapon stores, monuments and flea markets.
Across Europe, recent years have seen a (re-)militarization of civilian spaces 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 Ploeger’s own ambiguous relationship to firearms, which is driven by a paradoxical combination of childhood fascinations and critical theory, 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.