michelleletowska.com

Breathe, feel, live
In collaboration with Wolfgang Fuetterer
Berlin 2006-9
exhibited at the Lighthouse, Glasgow 2009

We travelled to Berlin in 2006. A survey by The Free University of Berlin and pollsters Forsa found that nearly one in four West Germans and one in eight Easterners agreed with the statement ‘…it would be better if the Wall between East and West Germany were still standing’.1 We were going to try to understand the sentiment of those willing the return of this physical and ideological border, memorable to us as a childhood television image but unknown in any real sense

We walked the route of the Berlin Wall three times. These journeys took us on a 155km loop through Berlin, its suburbs and wastelands. Over four years we became familiar with this once no-man’s land which exists now in many parts as a living memorial to the past. Constructed between 2002 – 2006 by the Senate Department for Urban Development, the Mauerweg, or Wall Way, navigates a course close to that which the wall once took. Following this newly asphalted route, we found it populated by aging Nordic walkers, groups of cyclists, horseriders and joggers. Recreation as memorial. We observed quiet leafy suburbs on either side being reunited with the hybrid architecture of part-Eastern part-Western style homes. Poisoned sandy death strip slowly returned to forest. Large shards of glass, international investment showpieces, towered over levelled ground. As we walked along sparkling beaches and through undistinguished industrial estates, only a few years on from existing as fortified, militarised territory, each journey brought a clearer understanding of this place. Not as it had once been, but as it is now. From these silent observations we learned how the past is retained in the present and how the present determines the future.

Economic and social uncertainty, memories of full employment and social order – these may explain wanting the Wall back. Following its course may not help to answer this question. Over four years we have taken 5000 photographs documenting the route. A largely unremarkable collection of images, their locations largely indefinable. But this land - a blank canvas until 20 years ago - and its contents, reveals something.

‘How does a city heal its scars?’, ask the people who already know the answer.

Critical construction begins.
Choices are given.
Houses are built.
Roads are opened.
Tourists come.
Business thrives.

Dreams come true.

Everyone is free.

Trees grow.

Breathe. Feel. Live.

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