Wednesday, July 13, 2005

 

Hitting the wall

[Part III of IV on reunified Germany. Though, who knows? Maybe I'll never get around to part IV...]

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The "East Side" of town has always had a more ominous connotation in Berlin than in, say, New York or even My Home Town. The photo above is the first panel of a mile-long surviving section of the Berlin wall that was transformed into an impromptu gallery for street artists when the wall came down.

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Berlin wall panel.

Starting about ten years later, the Germans launched a project to restore the original wall paintings, virtually all of which had deteriorated. Many of the original artists returned to restore their work. But a large swath is still in pretty bad shape.

It's interesting to think about the wall art: whether its character as performance predominates over its quality as "hanging" art for posterity. A lot of people treat it that way, at least I think they think they're performing "anti-wall" statements when they slather graffiti on the original or restored wall paintings. There's a ton of graffiti, most of it of the "Kilroy was here" variety, but well after reunification.

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Berlin Wall art -- good, bad, indifferent. It's the doing that counts!
Below: Graffiti. Is it performance art?

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Mmmmm. No. Above right: self absorbed note to friend:
Below: a guy hawking his blog?

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By the way, it's hard to take photos of individual wall-panel paintings. Framing a photo straight on from the sidewalk gives you a narrow focus, but if you back up for a wider angle, you move right into a heavily-trafficked street.

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Wall photographers in the un-restored section. Right: checking the camera angles.

Here's the famous painting, found on posters and postcards, in which Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker (the then Soviet and East German head honchos) give each other a sexy kiss.

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It seems so laden with queer po-mo meaning until you realize that it's just copied from a news photo:

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So what's behind the wall? Communism? No: it's the famous sandy beaches along the River Spree.

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Yes, indeed, they just put these things there. Kind of cute, and perhaps in hot sunny weather it would be nice. On this overcast day with temps in the upper 50s, it had more of a haunting quality.

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I love the beach bar cribbed right out of a Gidget movie.

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**

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