Using a physical wall to divide people for political reasons is something to which most Berliners can certainly relate. But that hasn’t made one artist’s proposed photography exhibition looking at border barriers around the world and their impact any less controversial in the German capital.
German photographer Kai Wiedenhoefer wants to mount a 300-metre long exhibition of Israel’s wall cutting off the Palestinian West Bank on the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall.
The exhibition, called Wall on Wall, consists of 30 panoramic photographs of the Israeli security wall, but also includes images of the border barriers between the United States and Mexico and Northern Ireland’s religious communities.
“Border walls are not a solution to political problems,” said Wiedenhoefer. “The UN said border walls are illegal. People need to take notice of this.”
Wiedehhoefer is hoping to attach his striking images to the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall running along the Spree River, which was is now billed as the largest outdoor gallery in the world.
Members of the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district’s Commission for Arts and Culture initially rejected Wiedenhoefer’s proposal, saying the content of the exhibition was too controversial. However, the district council now supports it, city officials said this week. The final approval is expected at the end of this month.
And the mayor of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Frank Schulz, already has firm plans for Wall on Wall. “The exhibition will be on the river side of the East Side Gallery so that people can take their time looking at it,” he told The Local. “That way their view won’t be blocked by all the bus tourists.”
Wiedenhoefer’s exhibition has been specifically designed for the East Side Gallery to make the photographs accessible to a wider audience. Through Wall on Wall he intends to contrast the legacy of the Berlin Wall with current political conflicts that lead to the building of border barriers.
“The fall of the Berlin Wall was the only German revolution that ever worked,” Wiedenhoefer said. “And miraculously it was a peaceful one.”
The 42-year-old photographer, who studied communication design at the University of Essen, began documenting border barriers as the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989. Since then he has spent over a decade photographing the divided communities around the word, including Israeli security barriers around the Palestinian territories.
The walls featured in Wiedenhoefer’s exhibition have been constructed with one similar intention in his opinion – to control people. The Berlin Wall was erected on 13 August, 1961 to stop people fleeing from communist East Germany to democratic West Berlin.
In Northern Ireland, the “Peace Lines” were built in the 1970s to separate Catholic and Protestant communities in Belfast and other major towns to prevent sectarian violence. And along the 3,141-kilometre border between Mexico and the United States, a barrier attempts to keep Mexican immigrants from crossing into America in the search of work.
Wiedenhoefer photographs depict the effects of border walls on the communities on both sides of these barriers.
Wall on Wall will coincide with renovations to the East Side Gallery, which have been held up by a lack of funding. The district council is now awaiting a lottery grant to fund refurbishing efforts this spring.