Different Forms of Memory
The modern memorial takes many forms. From your standard statue erected by a municipal government to curated exhibits in a museum and spontaneous public memorials that pop up after an event, the way the public remembers and decides to represent the past says a lot about society. Berlin is no exception. As a city that has been destroyed, separated and rebuilt several times over the last century, Berlin’s memorials represent a unique and public way of memorializing that entwines past events into the everyday lives of its citizens and tourists. One unique example of this is of course The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which you can read about in my last post.
This blog post however, will focus on the creative and fascinating case study of the East Side Gallery- an art site that memorializes the former Berlin Wall. Featuring 105 paintings by international artists, these works are painted along a 1.3 km piece of the wall that still stands today along the River Spree. Each artist expresses their feelings about the wall which separated citizens, friends and families for years. The results are breathtaking. I love when artists cooperate to memorialize!
Another really cool thing about this memorial is how current Berlin-based (street?)artists add to it. While the official memorial is on the East side of the wall, the west side of the wall is covered in really cool and colourful graffiti. While we were there we saw artists adding to it, tagging it and covering other pieces. In this way, the memorial has evolved in a way that allows the current population to interact with the past. Whether they realize or care that this was the Berlin Wall or not- it clearly means something to them.
If you’re headed to Berlin, I highly recommend checking out the East Side Gallery! It was one of my favourite spots and a great place to spend a sunny afternoon by the water.