This weekend marked the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Indeed, it has now been 25 years since the night of November 9, 1989 when thousands of Berliners flocked to Wall and, in a moment of celebration known to the Germans as Die Wende—the turn, tore down the barrier that had divided the city for more than thirty years. This event came after months of political upheaval and protests that led to the fall of the Eastern Bloc. The Berlin Wall had become a powerful symbol of the division of the Western world during the Cold War between the communist regime and the non-Communist bloc, led by the United States. Its fall not only marked the reunification of Germany, but also the transition to a new political, economic and social era.
To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of this landmark event, the city of Berlin, in collaboration with the Kulturprojekte Berlin and Robert Havemann Society, organized a series of activities revolving around a major urban artistic intervention: LICHTGRENZE, which could be translated into English as light border. Today, we will find out more about this elegant and poetic project and the celebrations associated with it.
From November 7 to 9, during a period which lasted for two days and two nights, this transient response to the wall completely transformed the urban landscape of the city of Berlin. Thousands of bright white balloons were installed at the heart of the city along the site where the wall once stood, creating an artistic display longer than 15 kilometres! It was designed by brothers Christopher and Marc Bauden and the creative teams WHITEvoid and baudenfilm and supported by the BerlinKulturprojekte. The project was intended as a poetic and temporary reminder of the brutality of the Wall. The hundreds of thousands of visitors had the chance to relive for a moment this milestone of German and international history. The project was also a tribute to the courage of the people of East Germany, who rebelled against the dictatorship of the time in what many describe as the largest peaceful demonstration in the history of mankind.
Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves of the facts and events surrounding the Berlin Wall, its construction in 1961 to its fall in 1989. At the end of the Second World War, Berlin was divided between the four Allies, Russia, the US, France and the United Kingdom. Collaboration between these four nations was short, since in 1948, the Soviet Union put an end to its cooperative relations with its Western counterparts and established what is known today as the Berlin Blockade, which completely isolated West Berlin from the rest of East Germany. Over the following years, this division became more pronounced and construction of the Wall began on the night of 12 August 13, 1961. It ran along more than 155 kilometres and was composed of two concrete walls isolating a no man's land dotted with watchtowers, barbed wire, barrier sheets and patrol. Twenty-five crossing points, strictly controlled, allowed for limited transit between the two areas of the city. The remains of the most famous one, Checkpoint Charlie,are still present today on Friedrichstrasse. Many tried unsuccessfully to leave the Soviet zone illegally by crossing the wall during the thirty years of its existence: the victims of this oppression are honored in several commemorations in Berlin.
The LICHTGRENZE could not, of course, cover the entire 155 km of the original wall, but it ran along 15 kilometers in the heart of the city of Berlin, as can be seen in this model showing the city at night, as the crow flies. Also, this bright border passed through some of the most emblematic places of the capital city. Beginning with Bornholmerstrasse, bright balloons passed the Berlin Wall Memorial to reach the Reichstag and the famous Brandenburg Gate. They then proceeded to Potsdamer Platz, rebuilt after the fall of the wall by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, and through the legendary Checkpoint Charlie. Finally, this wall of light crossed the Kreuzberg district and then went along the East Side Gallery to finish on the Oberbaumbrückea bridge over the Spree, joining the East to the West in a symbol of Berlin's unity.
Over the weekend, in addition to the LICHTGRENZE, the city of Berlin and the Berlin Kulturprojekte hosted a variety of public and community events.There were also a variety of themed guided tours, allowing visitors to learn more about the history of the Wall.
The LICHTGRENZE also hosted occasional artistic events. One exhibition, One Hundred Wall Stories, presented photographs and facts about the history of a hundred Berliners at every 150 metres of the course . Moreover, the film
Walls Pieces, a collage of archival film videos directed by Marc Bauder were presented in publics spots. Finally, a street festival was held the last day of celebrations.
Following the events that punctuate the weekend, the current mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, kicked off the closing ceremony on the the evening 9 November at 19h. That's when more than two thousand selected individuals released the bright balloons, an event that lasted about thirty minutes and poetically symbolized the dissolution of the wall and the great liberation that led to huge ideological changes political and social. The participants of this major gesture represented a group from Berlin and elsewhere, ranging in age from 4 to 74. What a strong and emotionally charged moment!