Friday, March 27, 2009

Rebuilding the Berlin Wall: Smoother, Cleaner, More Commercial

Call me a skeptic, but are we really to believe that they are completely destroying the East Side Gallery (Berlin Wall with purty pitchers) in order to 'preserve, reconstruct and remember' the monument? They talk of the history of the wall, the artists who came from all over the world to commemorate the fall of communism in Berlin with a blast of paint on the one remaining segment that wasn't torn down.

And that they're destroying all that history--get this--to preserve the Wall. Ahem. Why in the Flying Fuck are they putting bureaucrats in charge of anything 'historical' or 'artistic'? Can't the Mighty B's be happy making our lives miserable in the usual way--parking, registration, jobs, etc.? No, they wanna be part of art and history.
OK, cut back to my arrival in Berlin to see why I'm actually pissed off. I was planning on getting around to the important monuments of Berlin once it wasn't January 10th, minus 10 Celsius. I was thinking a jaunt around town with my camera would wait until the thawing of the frozen dog turds on the street, at the very least. In late February I took a walk by the East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall (the only preserved section left, other than a few chunks by Potsdamer Platz--which are dwarfed by the massive skyscrapers above) on the way to a party on a boat. Well, Berliners do that party thing, so we went. We passed a long section of painted wall and realized that it was the famous East Side Gallery section of the Berlin Wall. We saw some cool artwork in addition to some added bad graffiti and such. I looked down the street and saw that the painted wall continued into the distance. I swore I'd get back with my camera. When the frozen dog turds thawed.

So a few days ago I went back to get those pics. After some months of some pretty craptastic weather, I had to go. Even though I was in charge of my girlfriend's sick dog while she was away, and the little bastard was was puking and shitting in the flat, I had to go. I took the sick dog for a nice drag for a couple of km's down to the Wall. I started snapping, leash in one hand, camera in the other. A few blocks on down the wall I noticed a construction fence. And the noise of jackhammers. I was looking forward to getting snaps of some of the more famous wall paintings--the kissing commies, the 3 cartoon faces in Pop Art style, etc. But I was greeted by a long stretch of gray, bare wall and the sound of construction. As I continued down the road I met a few confused tourists scratching their heads and an individual handing out flyers to the tourists. I took one. It said 'Europe is closed for renovation to better serve you' or something like that.

My only bitch about this whole thing--other than not getting my photos of the 'original' wall--is this: you know damn well they're gonna have McDonald's, KFC, Nike and other ads on this fucking thing when they finish it. Who else is gonna pay for the 'historical reconstruction of an important part of European history' smack dab in the middle of this 'Global Crisis, Inc.'?

I plan to document the entire reconstruction process, right up through the time they "bring the original artists back to repaint the wall", here.

Meanwhile, you can take a photographic virtual stroll down a section of the wall as of yet undisturbed by the jackhammers here:


  1. True graffiti art is by its nature ephemeral. From the basic tag which is like a dog pissing on a lamp-post saying "I'm in the neighbourhood", to the sublime and surrealist art of someone like Banksy, the graffito is a thing of its time, a spontaneous expression of thought and feeling.
    As I ride the S-Bahn I see the graffiti evolve and change weekly, daily sometimes. The graffiti art on the Berlin Wall was of its time. Should it be preserved? Frozen? Photographically, certainly. As an instant captured in light, as a record of a place and time. Of an outburst of insight or emotion to the zeitgeist. But as a tourist attraction captured in aspic? I think not.
    The twittering aggregation of scrawls that 'defaced' the original Berlin wall East Side Gallery may not have been attractive, but they were genuine. Ungenuine are the state-sanctioned, state-funded, corporate artifices that subvert the initial expression of the freedom of the downfall of the wall into a tourist attraction, a post-card, a t-shirt image, a pass-by on the Berlin Sightseeing Tour.
    We are bombarded enough with corporate graffiti from every bill-board - buy this, drive this, eat this- , over which we have no control. Reclaim the wall, and as soon as it has been cleaned up, get your spray-can out and make your own statement!

  2. I mourn the zeitgeist because I always arrive 5 minutes too late.