Monday, November 3, 2014

Memories of Freedom: The Berlin Wall Exhibit at Front Porch Gallery

Do you remember the Berlin Wall going up? Or even coming down? And what are your memories about?

Sometimes it takes an exhibition to bring home those memories, albeit in ways that you might not have imagined.

I only recently visited Berlin this past spring and, of course, walking around Berlin - among the most vibrant cities in Europe - I encountered the faux Checkpoint Charlie as well as  real pieces of the Wall. Somewhat unexpectedly, one of the artists in this exhibit (Janine Free) and I had taken nearly the same photograph but from opposite sides of the Wall. But, far more important than this historical symbol is what it meant then, and what it should mean now. 

As one walks the city of Berlin, and reads its history, the Wall is entangled in a many-sided history of WWII and the post-War transitions. The coming down of the Wall facilitates the reunification of East and West Germany less than a year later. There is a much deeper investigation of why Nazism happened - important reminders - just as the symbolism of the Wall, but in several museums: The Topography of Terror; Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; the Allied Museum; the Jewish Museum and others.

Irene de Watteville / Friday, November 9, 1989
 Holding in my hand a piece of the Berlin wall I thought of the opening
 of this horrific barrier erected to prevent people during 25 years
 from going from East to West, and could hear the utter joy
 surrounding that celebration.

The Front Porch Gallery is featuring an exhibit on the Berlin Wall with 15 participating artists.

Front Porch Gallery   
2903 Carlsbad Blvd., Carlsbad, CA 92008   
(760) 795-6120

November 9, 2014 - January 5, 2015

Opening reception Sunday, November 9 from noon - 2 pm

Join us in commemorating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and reflect, through art, upon an enduring moment of the 20th century. PERSPECTIVES: The Berlin Wall, an exhibit born of a tragic history, will uplift and illuminate a peak in humanity. This exhibit showcases mixed media, photography and sculpture–including actual pieces of the wall–from international artists currently residing in San Diego and Los Angeles. Come, experience the transformative power of these works!

Janine Free, Brennan Hubbell, Amber Irwin, Dave Johnson, Jessi Mathes, Michelle Moraga & Ed Eginton, John Moseley, Victor Ochoa, Katrin Queck, Andrew Robinson, Lia Strell, Carol Beth Rodriguez, Irene de Watteville, Julie Weaverling

Of course, the U.S. has left its symbolic mark upon this wall in the contest between Soviet ways of thinking (the gulag) and those of U.S. presidents (Kennedy, Reagan). And there are many explanations about how the Wall finally came down from bureaucratic incompetence to soldiers not knowing what to do with the rush of enthusiastic border crossers. In this exhibit, the objective is not to explain the past, but to inform ourselves about the symbolism of the ending of a separation.

Dave Johnson / And His Hair Was Perfect
"All free men, where ever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner.  
I am a Berliner.'”

John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963

“There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate.Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.  Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Ronald Reagan, June 12, 1987

Julie Weaverling has woven her concept of the human spirit into the ongoing contest of ideas about human evolution.  Why is it that we seem to lose that positive energy and confront repressive forms of expression?

Julie Weaverling / Evolution of Mankind

Joe Nalven:  Your text reminds us that freedom is elusive:  "It happened. Therefore, it can happen again."  If you went beyond the individual drawing his or her own conclusions, what might you say for yourself?

Julie Weaverling: When thinking about what I wanted to create with pieces from the Berlin Wall for the 25th Anniversary of the fall, I started thinking of the symbolism of the wall itself:  Rigid, a closing off, life on one side full of bounty, existence on the other without much sustenance, families torn and divided unwillingly between the two… the human toll.

Then, symbols in art that relate to spirituality. I have always been drawn to the ancient symbol of the spiral.  It speaks to rebirth, spirituality and in my view evolution.

How can we as a species move away from oppression and the hypnosis of an imposed world view and as a people move towards the light.  Many quotes I found in researching graffiti on the Berlin Wall were noteworthy, but the words I selected (“It happened, therefore it can happen again”) are perhaps never more needed or relevant than now; or, are they/will they always be needed until there is a true evolution of mankind.  Is it the dichotomy of humanity itself that is both demoralizing as seen in current events virtually everywhere on earth as well as being capable of inspiring greatness with the connection we share with one another that makes lasting progression seem endlessly difficult yet still worthy of the effort?

While The Evolution of Mankind is meant to ultimately be seen as hopeful and uplifting, a rebirth of sorts and a prayer that mankind can progress past a need to dictate and hold power over one another or groups of innocent people, it is also that reminder that evil exists and cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged.  My belief that by not only not forgetting events of the past, but rather putting them on display to specifically remember and indeed name them and thus perhaps avoid repeating them, we too must breathe in the truth that most people are truly good and the world is full of color and beauty. 

Janine Free / Poetic Wax

Joe Nalven:  You've had the experience of living in Europe and visiting Berlin not only as an adult, but a child as well. What impact has the Berlin Wall had on you and transforming that emotional connection into an art object?

Janine Free:  In 2011, I stayed in Berlin to photograph the city. One day, I was walking along the West side of the 300 foot section of the actual Berlin Wall preserved as a memorial. I noticed a hole in the wall, the shape of a teardrop.  It stirred me and, as I took a picture, a couple walked on the East side, perfectly framed in the hole, the woman wearing a red sweater matching the red paint still encrusted on the wall; a Street Photographers dream come true. 

When I was offered to participate in the Berlin show, I visualized the real pieces of the Wall attached together by a rusty wire, tears from the hole in the wall in my photograph, ending up as a pile of rubble on the floor of the gallery.

I visited East Berlin as a young child traveling with my family in the 1950s.  I was horrified at the sight of soldiers laying on the grass on each side of the road leading from West Germany to Berlin, their rifles pointed at the cars going by.  No one was allowed to stop. This was the first time I experienced real fear, hoping we would not get a flat tire or that a soldier would not get bit by a bee, discharging his rifle by accident.  You felt this monster lurking in the fields behind the soldiers, somehow not as sunny as the road we were on.

We forget the Wall but the tears are still there.

Nb. If you are curious of what I saw in Berlin, well, that's a matter of seeing in infrared:  Berlin Infrared.

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