The first guise of Berlin’s Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart was erected in 1961 by the German Democratic Republic to stem the exodus of its citizens to the West, for between 1948 and August 1962 nearly three million East Germans had escaped from the harsh policies to the West though the Berlin loophole.
On two short trips to Berlin in 2008, I visited the couple of remnants that are generally known; the rest seemed to have completely disappeared from the streets of Berlin (with a few sections accessioned to museums around the world). The public memory of an endless border with watchtowers at regular intervals and floodlights continuously illuminating the border at night was no longer present.
In the summer of 2009, having been invited by Simon Faithfull to spend time researching in Mobile Research Unit no.1 at the Berlin Skulpturenpark – itself occupying vacant plots left by the removal of the Wall – I became fascinated with the remnants I had previously overlooked.
Using the Berliner Mauerweg as my primary guide I set out to cycle the ~160km of the former Wall’s path and see traces remaining there today. Yet my pursuit quickly devolved into something else: a gentle four day ride on a borrowed bike turned into a several week mission involving archives, museums, history books, autobiographies, conversations with government officials and with strangers. Following the officially signposted Berliner Mauerweg and then taking detours based on the evidence I stumbled across, experiencing the interstices not discussed by the tourist and general history guides, to look at the Berlin today 20 years after the fall of the wall, to feel the distance of pedal on ground.
extract from Grounds (Berliner Mauer) article commissioned for You Are Here (November 2009) on Broken Dimanche Press. Text accompanied with photographs.
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The Research Station is commissioned by SKULPTURENPARK BERLIN_ZENTRUM for their project Wunderland. The station can be found on the open ground between Seydelstr and Beuthstr
Researchers include: Esther Polak (Amsterdam) 18-22 Aug, Annika Lundgren (Gothenburg/Berlin) 17-21 Aug, Martin John Callanan (London) 24-30 Aug, Katie Paterson (London) 31 Aug - 6 Sep, Nick Crowe & Ian Rawlinson (Manchester/Berlin) 5-10 Sep, Simon Faithfull (Berlin/London) 11-14 Sep, Tim Knowles (London) 15-19 Sep
Research Communications Day
Findings will be presented at the Research Station at 20:00 on Sunday 20 September 2009