Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Last Afternoon in Berlin

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

As many of you know, the 53rd anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s construction was about three weeks ago, on August 13. At the moment, there are all manner of special events on to commemorate the occasion, in addition to the permanent Wall Museum at Checkpoint Charlie. The best one that I had the opportunity to see during my last week in Berlin was by far the Wall Panorama (also at Checkpoint Charlie) by Yadegar Asisi.

Asisi, who lived in Kreuzberg in the 1980s, has constructed for this exhibition a large-scale panoramic view of everyday life on both sides of the Wall, complete with an artificial scaffolding platform. Leading into the panorama room, one sees a series of photographs collected from people who lived in or visited Berlin while the Wall was up. The aim here is to impart a sense of the quotidian during this period—one cannot, Asisi claims, truly understand what life was like without understanding the minute details of der Alltag. Of particular importance to the artist was also to communicate the normalization of the Wall: it was always there and it, strangely, became a part of the natural landscape for Berlin residents on both sides of it. No one was surprised to walk by it; it became part of the landscape. To hear that one could get used to such circumstances, that one could really forget the kind of oppression implied by such a structure, was amazing to me.

The panorama itself is also breathtaking. Asisi removed and shifted a few buildings in order to allow views of Berlin landmarks, like the Marienkirche, but otherwise the view is totally accurate, complete with images of citizens performing everyday tasks. The image is almost life-size and there is even an elevated platform from which viewers can get a better angle. It’s a truly stunning project that really delivers on an interesting intention, namely giving visitors a real glimpse into the reality of life in Berlin during the 1960s, ’70s, and ‘80s.

Another interesting aspect of the introductory photos was that so many of them came from people who were just visiting the city. The images themselves varied, but one thing was always the same: every one of them mentioned that they fell in love with the city and wanted to move there immediately. On my last afternoon in Berlin, this was particularly affecting.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Wall, be sure to check out the panorama as well as Berlinica’s related publications, including The Berlin Wall Today by Michael Cramer and Rocking the Wall by Erik Kirschbaum!

It’s been a privilege to share my summer experience with you all, and I hope you continue to enjoy everything that Berlin has to offer!

So long, Vanessa

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