Berliner Grenzen 2011

This project effectively began in 1984. The cinemas of the day were showing the latest big screen adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian classic and Big Brother was about to enter the popular lexicon. The Sunday supplements waxed thoughtfully upon the original text, often employing the Soviet Union, a natural choice, as the totalitarian proxy.
The divided city of Berlin was the shop window of the Cold War, a capitalist island walled in and surrounded on all sides by the Red Menace of the Communism. 1953 had seen the armed suppression of protest on the streets of Berlin, which was then followed by the brutal crushing of the Hungarian revolution in 1956.
The Berlin Wall – Die Mauer – was inevitable. During the months prior to August 1961 Berlin was gripped by Torschlusspanik, literally ‘door shut panic’. 160 000 people fled through the checkpoints and presented themselves at the Marianfelde refugee centre.
The Soviet sector of East Berlin was bleeding out, the finest of a generation believed their futures lay in the West where the shelves were full and they would be free from Sociallist dogma, personal repression the fear of the midnight knock on the door.
On 15th June at a press conference the Communist leader of the DDR, Walter Ulbricht, replied to a question from Annemarie Doherr regarding the mooted idea of Berlin becoming a free city and a state boundary being erected. He informed her that ‘the construction workers of the DDR are principally occupied with home-building and their strength is completely consumed with this task. No one has the intention of building a wall’. (Buckley Jr, WF. 37)
On the 13th of August Operation Rose began and the ‘Barbed Wire Sunday’ as it became known would divide the city for 28 long years. Even in 1989, the last year of its existance, the leader of the DDR, Erich Honecker was quoted as saying that; "The Wall will be standing in 50 and even in 100 years, if the reasons for it are not removed." The Wall would be breached and largely demolished in just 10 months time.
For many, the city of Berlin is Germany in microcosm, where Imperial, Weimar, Nazi, Communist and Capitalist legacies have embedded their architectural legacies.
Berlin is a haunted place, full of symbolic meanings which are not restricted to formal monuments but include practical structures whose symbolic meanings have become meshed with their mundane functions.
Embedded into the physical architecture of Berlin are layer upon layer of German memory, the temporal dimensions of which become ever more contested.
It must seem at times to the citizens of the former DDR that the politics of willful forgetting are about to dismantle and expunge the monuments to sociallism. Orwell’s assertion that the future is controlled by the conquerors of the past strikes a chord in unified Berlin. Preservation has been eschewed in favour of corporate skyscraper totems.
The architecture since the – Wende – the change - has undergone a remarkable restructuring that is at one stroke a renovation of an historical past, a high-tech investment in a bright new future and a victors concealment of a discredited past. The rhetoric of urban restoration walks a fine line between the precious and the profane in the German capital.
Andreas Huyssen as has described the rebuilding of Berlin; ‘a strategy of power and humiliation, a final burst of Cold War ideology, pursued via a politics of signs’. (1997, p60.)
Germany is now one state inhabited by two nations, Ossi’s and Wessi’s. Indeed, there is a growing feeling of marginality and outsiderhood that has seen the rise of – Ostalgie – nostalgia for the East.
Even more problematic has been the development of suitable responses to GDR public history, with a widespread and growing reluctance, in the east of Berlin at least, to accept the automatic removal of all markers, statues, and public buildings from the GDR years.
My work has attempted to reveal what Svetlana Boym calls “the psychic spectre” of the all too hastily removed wall. It further explores the reflective nostalgia for the East and the many sites this inhabits. Berlin seems to exist in a perpetual state of liminality, forever betwixt and between. Karl Scheffler first suggested this flux in 1910 when he stated that ‘Berlin is always to become and never to be’.
Berlin Wird ran the slogan, Berlin becomes…what?

Bibliography & Literature review.


Svetlana Boym. 2001. The Future of Nostalgia. New York, Basic Books.
William. F. Buckley Jr. 2004. The Fall of the Berlin Wall. New Jersey, Wiley.
Matt Frei. 2009. Berlin. London, BBC. (DVD)
Anna Funder. 2003. Stasiland. London, Granta.
Timothy Garton Ash. 1997. The File – A Personal History. New York, Random House.
Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck (Dir). 2007.The Lives of Others. Lionsgate Entertainment. (DVD)
Jana Hensel. 2004. After the Wall: Confessions from an East German. New York, Public Affairs.
Andreas Huyssen. 1997. The Voids of Berlin. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Brian Ladd. 1998. The Ghosts of Berlin. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Michael Meyer. 2009. The Year that Changed the World. London, Simon & Schuster.
Peter Millar. 2009. 1989 The Berlin Wall, my part in its downfall. London, Arcadia Books.
Peter Millar. 1992. Tomorrow Belongs to Me. London, Bloomsbury.
Peter Molloy. 2009. The Lost World of Communism. London, BBC. (DVD)
Alexandra Richie. 1999. Faust’s Metropolis: A History of Berlin. London, Harper Collins.
Frederick Taylor. 2009. The Berlin Wall. London, Bloomsbury.

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