On October 1989, as the primary tv photographs of the autumn of the Berlin Wall started to be broadcast, Kai Wiedenhöfer, a 23-year-old scholar photographer, used to be attending a symposium in Dortmund with the well known American photojournalist Leonard Freed.
Triggered by way of Freed, Wiedenhöfer made up our minds to skip his categories and head east that night time. Achieving the Herleshausen checkpoint, he used to be greeted by way of a 10km queue of site visitors heading west.
By means of 6am the next morning he used to be taking photos on Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz. “When we crossed the Herleshausen checkpoint we realised everybody used to be treating it like a birthday celebration,” he says. “Everybody used to be celebrating.”
Two of the images Wiedenhöfer took that morning in Berlin are these days on view in Belfast, blown as much as 3 metres by way of four.five metres and displayed on probably the most “peace partitions” or “peace traces” constructed to divide Catholics and Protestants. Those pasted photographs are a part of Wall on Wall, his long-term challenge to dramatise the boundaries and fences that divide other folks around the globe.
Different symbols of bodily department he has visited come with the US-Mexican border, Cyprus, the demilitarised zone between the 2 Koreas and the concrete boundaries that separate Sunni and Shia neighbourhoods in Baghdad.
His travels have solidified his view that such partitions and fences are profound symbols of failure.
“For me,” he says, “the importance of what took place in 1989 used to be this sense: ‘Now we now have a unfastened global. There’s not more fucking borders!’ Everybody used to be satisfied on the time. You take into accout [Francis Fukuyama’s] Finish of Historical past?” He laughs on the reminiscence, then provides: “Then I witnessed what took place within the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The autumn of the [Berlin] Wall used to be a super-strong image. It used to be a type of uncommon instances the place the whole thing crystalises round a unmarried level. It wasn’t about reunification of Germany however the finish of a undeniable global order.
“The purpose of the Berlin Wall used to be that it symbolised this large downside, which used to be the loss of conversation between the 2 aspects. It used to be just like the wall of silence in a foul courting. When you don’t communicate on your counterpart, you construct a wall and the issue simply will get worse.”
Those emotions have been rekindled for him when, in the middle of the 2d Intifada in 2003, he started documenting the development by way of Israel of a limiteless barrier setting apart Israelis and Palestinians that sliced thru city spaces and nation-state alike, together with the outskirts of Jerusalem.
He says he realised immediately that what he used to be seeing used to be the start of the similar procedure he had observed with the autumn of the Berlin Wall, a shuttering of the opportunity of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.
The combo of the 2 moments – the autumn of 1 dividing wall and the development of every other – led Wiedenhöfer to Wall on Wall, which noticed him show massive photographs of the Israeli separation wall at the remnants of the Berlin Wall on the outside East Aspect Gallery. The exhibition in Belfast, that includes 3 dozen massive photographs of boundaries he has photographed around the globe, repeats the workout.
The Berlin exhibition used to be now not with out controversy. Critics instructed that the juxtaposition of the Berlin Wall and Israel’s separation barrier amounted to antisemitic images, and it additionally triggered anxiousness amongst Berlin’s conservative native politicians.
The Belfast show off has run into other issues. It used to be first of all funded by way of the German international ministry, however the German executive pulled out over the political optics of Brexit, forcing a two-week name to fulfill the shortfall met partially by way of a £10,000 donation from Purple Floyd’s Roger Waters.
“One of the most issues that hyperlinks all of the partitions and boundaries is the insistence by way of those that construct them that every wall is exclusive and that you can’t examine the other partitions,” Wiedenhöfer says. “One of the most criticisms from some other folks of the unique Berlin exhibition used to be that in case you publish photos of the separation wall at the remnants of the Berlin Wall you have been making that comparability.
“However the level I’m seeking to make is other. It’s that what connects some of these partitions is an issue you can’t clear up thru negotiation, so that you construct a wall and make the issue worse. This is a observation this is inherent within the development of some of these partitions – if it is for financial causes, to split Catholic and Protestant, Sunni and Shias – it marks the issue as insoluble.”
For the ultimate 15 years Wiedenhöfer has lived in Berlin, in what used to be as soon as the GDR at the east facet of town. He nonetheless is going out to take photos on anniversaries of the wall’s fall, however feels town itself has grow to be much less exceptional amongst Ecu towns because the many years have handed and Berlin has gentrified.
“It’s changing into simply every other position, like Paris or London,” he says.
Satirically, in all probability, the normalisation of Berlin through the years underscores his level: that in spite of everything the destruction of boundaries that divide is extra vital than their development.
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