Two weeks ago I read a captivating article about the art featured on the Berlin Wall. It immediately reminded me of my post about the artist who took a circular saw to her exhibition works and Tibetan sand mandalas.
Obviously, outside of my original paradigm is this incident of the German government’s destruction of the most recognizable iconology following the felling of the Berlin wall. Berlin artist Dmitri Vrubel painted this section of wall based on an infamous photograph of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev leaning in to kiss his East German counterpart Erich Honecker.
Now sand-blasted into non-existence, even the concrete that was under the paint looks feeble and brittle. One of the captions in Spiegelonline’s photo-gallery shows a break between sections of wall in the East Gallery in serious “need of renovation”. It’s from this point that we’ll continue our discussion about act of creation vs product. I believe that the Berlin Wall will continue to stand in the histories and imaginations of those who understood what it — and it’s undoing — signified for many people, and will do so long after the wall itself has turned to dust. Does a wall — a symbol in the first place of social and cultural alienation and isolation, a symbol in the next place of the ability for love to conquer all — need renovation?
This idea bewilders me. Renovation, to make something new or as new again, is something that is dilapidated and in need of restoration to it’s former beauty and perfection. I believe that the decay of the wall is the pinnacle of it’s beauty and perfection. No one had wanted the wall built, except for a handful of East German and Soviet authorities, and the world had stood by and impotently watched as families were torn apart and innocent citizens shot trying to emigrate.
I’m happy to watch the remnants of the wall disintegrate. The wall isn’t like the pyramids or even the Great Wall of China. It wasn’t meant to stand for all time as a testament to human greatness, immortality or immunity. And I feel the art that subsumed it, that became the East Gallery, gave the wall a new meaning and purpose to be sure, but didn’t deny the existence of a line of division between east and west. The most recent act of destroying the art that decorated it for the sake of ‘renovations’ is another example of the self-serving behavior of a government meaning to exert undue influence over an unwilling citizenry.
That was two weeks ago. Fast forward to today and the latest in the controversy regarding the sandblasting and planned repainting of the walls. I initially felt outrage: to me the idea of the wall renovation is akin to pressure-washing Guernica and asking Picasso to paint it again, only this time just a little better and a little different. But when I read that artists felt they hadn’t received the royalties they deserved the only thing I felt was nausea.