Otto Piene. RIP.
David and I went to the vernissage at the Neue Nationalgalerie and were blown away. It was thrilling. What a loss to the art world.
Nil Frahm playing on his custom made Una Corda piano at the Michelberger Hotel courtyard.
And then this happened, and we all collectively lost our shit.
This guy is on his cell phone?
Tom and his doggie Rocky.
This is called Brandenburger Tor as well… smaller but just as swell.
SOMEONE BREAK THE GLASS AND LET ME IN. This was on Schoenhauser Allee.
This is my pornography.
This is the Bendlerblock courtyard where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was assassinated by the Gestapo after his plot to kill Hitler failed on July 20, 1944.
The 70th anniversary just passed.
You did not bear the shame.
You bestowed the eternally vigilant symbol of change
by sacrificing your impassioned lives for freedom, justice and honor.
The spot where he was shot.
The Berliner Dom. It had just rained, so the platz was deserted. I sat on the steps of the church, pulled out my journal, and wrote. I had the entire Dom to myself… and, it seemed, the entire city.
The platz in front of the university.
This is the spot where the 1933 Nazi student book-burning took place. The plaque talks of all the kinds of writers whose works are lost, and then there’s a Heinrich Heine quote from 1820, which says, “This is only prologue: where they burn books, in the end they will also burn people.”
I photographed this 8 years ago too.
But what never seems to develop properly in photography is the empty library. Next to this plaque, in the ground, there is a window. When you look down through it, you see underground, empty bookshelf after empty bookshelf.
This church was bombed out during WWII and after the war they decided not to rebuilt it as a memento to the horrors of war. I photographed this 8 years ago when it didn’t have all that cubism shit all over it.
Last year, JR hit up Berlin for his project “The Wrinkles of the City” where he pasted his famous oversized portraits on some iconic architectural specimens found throughout the historic city. But unlike his Inside Out Project, these were portraits of the elderly, or at least, “more seasoned” people, in an effort to show the beauty that comes with age. I wasn’t able to come to Berlin last year, but I’m here now! Considering that street art usually has a very short shelf life, it was thrilling to find many of his works still visible and in great condition one full year later!
This was on the side of Ostbahnhof, across the street from the East Side Gallery.
This was also across the street from the East Side Gallery, but no one seemed to notice it. People were so consumed with taking assinine selfies next to the Berlin Wall, they didn’t bother to look around.
This beautiful find of Salvador Dali was up on Gustav Meyer Allee. I had to hop a fence or two to get these shots.
See the hand? If you have ever taken a photograph with JR, as I have, you know that this is his hand-thingie-sign-whatchamacallit. I got it wrong when I took my picture with him in London. Anyway, when I found this huge piece, as you can see, it was covered by construction.
This is what it’s supposed to look like when all of this scaffolding isn’t obstructing it… bastards.
This piece used to take up the entire side of this building. I guess it didn’t withstand the elements very well.
This was on the side of Soho House, on a huge East Berlin boulevard that seemed oppressive and deserted. But I love how the fernsehturm (tv tower) in the background gives the wheatpaste a dimension and depth… and also GRAVITAS (i think that word is kind of silly, but it fits in this instance)…. gravitas.
This was underneath a bridge, near Friedrichstraße station. This one survived the elements pretty well! Yay, bridge-protection!
Unfortunately, the rest of the JR pieces around the city were untraceable to me… I searched for many of them but came up empty handed. Either they’re gone from the elements, or I had the wrong location information. But I’m happy these lovely pieces have survived a year!
Check out my JR category and my Inside Out Project category for more of his works that I’ve photographed around the world!
This will be a sombre, solemn post. I thought when I decided to spend the summer in Berlin that I’d be more fascinated with WWII history (and believe me, I am), but I was unprepared for just how much Cold War history would really affect me.
Throughout the 20th century, Germans have been REALLY good at building walls. First they built walls to create Jewish Ghettos, then they built walls around concentration camps, then they built walls to separate their own people. If you just so happened to be living in the wrong part of Berlin, you were suddenly forbidden to visit your family and friends on the other side of town. You couldn’t even wave across the wall, or they would blind you with reflecting mirrors. The Soviets wanted to prevent people from moving freely from one side to the other, so they built a wall, and would kill if you dared cross. THEY WOULD KILL YOU. And this isn’t ancient history, people were being killed in 1989 for trying to cross the wall. IN 1989.
And I find the sections where the Berlin wall is still standing especially haunting. Because, really, the wall isn’t that high. It wasn’t really the wall but the kill zone in between East and West Germany that is horrific.
This is a photograph of 18 year old Peter Fechter. He was an apprentice bricklayer.
And this is the last photograph ever taken of Peter Fechter as he lay dying from a gunshot wound to the stomach when he tried to cross the wall in 1962. The East Germans shot him and left him there for over an hour to die.
This marks the spot where he died.
You know, my pictures of this murder don’t do the horror of this event justice. Here is a short film about the erection of the Berlin Wall and the murder of Peter Fechter (I know no one likes watching videos, but it’s only 9 minutes long, and it’s actually really good. The voice-over feels a bit dated, but I would highly encourage you guys to watch this. There is footage of Peter Fechter being carried off as he dies, and other footage of people trying to jump the wall, or even jumping out of buildings just to get to the West.).
What you’re looking at here is a preserved section of the wall and the kill zone, with an intact guard tower. You can see the Berlin TV tower near Alexanderplatz (in the West) in the background. If you lived here on Bernauerstrasse in the 1960s, you could see into the west, you could hear the rumble of the trams and S-bahn, you could even hear their voices. But, for over 40 years, you wouldn’t have been able to see your family living there.
It’s obscene how recent this history is.
As you saw in the video above, if you lived on a building facing the West, before the wall was built you could just jump through your window and run to the West with all your things.
But then they started to build the wall, first with barbed wire, then with bricks.
Even the East German guards were swept up in the wall-crossing fever. You have all seen this photograph before. His name is Conrad Schumann.
Schumann was a young East German guard, overseeing the border when it was just barbed wire. As the story goes, on the West was a van full of West German guards who called out to him, and said, “Come on, join us!” So when the moment was right, he hopped the wire, dropped his gun, and dashed into the waiting van which drove off. The East German police scrambled to grab his gun, and then all hell broke loose.
Here is a short video (put it on mute, there’s some obnoxious voiceover on it) of that moment. Some lucky bastard had his camera rolling at that exact moment, and caught it all on tape.
Schumann became a posterboy for West Germany. The sad thing – he was petrified his entire life that the Stasi would arrest him or seek retribution for his act. Even after the wall fell and Germany was reunified, he lived in constant fear. He committed suicide in 1998, by hanging himself from a tree.
Here’s another guard tower around the corner from Potsdamer Platz. The wall was so ridiculous, it literally cut the city in two via asinine regulations. For 28 years, nobody was able to pass through the Brandenburg Tor, because it was situated in the killzone between the East and the West. Now, the Brandenburg Tor is a huge tourist draw and everyone passes through it. If you tried to do that in 1984, for example, you would have been shot.
When the wall finally fell and the East Germans walked into the West, they said it felt like “madness.” This above photograph I took last week.
Here’s something new. In 2006, this is what a section of the wall near Wilhelmstrasse looked like. I took this picture back then.
This is what that exact same wall looked like last week.
The trees are gone, and they paved over most of the cobblestones in favour of asphalt.
Because on the other side of the wall, they have put in an open-air museum called Topographie Des Terrors, as that is the location of a former Gestapo prison. The ruins of the prison cells are down there.
Now the former border is either marked by cobblestones in the road, or by these beams.
Or, the best way to commemorate a political travesty…
Welcome to the East Side Gallery! The stretch of the Berlin Wall that had such provocative street art, it encouraged the revolution of the people, and the destruction of the DDR. It now is a protected wall, and these original murals from the late 80s serve as a reminder to the power of the people, and a people torn apart.
I’ll let these images speak for themselves, shall I?
The caption says “My God, help me to overcome this deadly love.”
This is a satirical depiction of a famous moment when Erich Honecker (leader of the DDR) kissed Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev. This is perhaps the most recognizable image from the East Side Gallery.
This says, “He who wants the world to remain as it is, doesn’t want it to remain at all.”
Why is that Thierry Noir? I FINK SO!
In fact, it is the wall which made Noir famous. He put up these infamous faces in the 80s, and they became a symbol of the people separated. Along with the Honecker kiss above, it is one of the most recognizable symbols of the wall.
A touch of home! There’s a 2009 mural here that is captioned “Je Me Souviens” which is the slogan of Quebec! And underneath it references the student protests in Quebec. It has the red square that was the symbol of the protestors, and it says Fuck Charest, Fuck Harper.
For those of you who don’t know, Charest was the premier of Quebec, and Harper is our stupid Prime Minister.
Jodie Foster from Taxi Driver. I saw this wheatpaste in London, must be new.
The dust of walls torn down has settled in the hearts of men. How will you keep them from rising again?
This is all fun and stuff, but let’s not forget that people died. People were terrorized. And this is a reminder of all-too-recent history.