By Deb A.
When news of an art project that would rebuild the Berlin Wall began to circulate a month ago, people quickly began to take sides. Some—including Berlin's mayor and Brian Eno—thrilled at the boldness of an art installation that would recreate the Wall, closing off a section of Berlin's Mitte district. Visitors would have to apply for visas to get in, and an algorithm would develop individual programmes for visitors based on their application form. Once inside, they could be led anywhere, from Marina Abramović's performance piece Come, Wash With Me to a premiere of one of the 13 films created from footage of Ilya Khrzhanovsky's film project Dau, which recorded volunteers living in a recreation of a Soviet-era totalitarian town from 2009 to 2011. As the premiere of a three-part trilogy that would start with Dau: Liberty in Berlin, then be followed by Dau: Equality in Paris, and finally Dau: Fraternity in London. the Wall would be erected October 12 and torn down on November 9, the day the actual Wall came down in 1989.
While supporters awaited their chance to buy a visa, others, including civil rights activists and one of the initiators of Jeanne-Claude and Christo's Wrapped Reichstag, protested: "When the Wall was built, we stood by, furious, helpless. ... We do not want to see any more Walls." They raised concerns about the commodification of a traumatic chapter of German history and suggested that the creators of Dau: Liberty look to the victims of the current Russian regime to gain a true understanding of what it means to be imprisoned in a totalitarian system.
The controversy was resolved, at least temporarily, in the most mundane of ways: The proposal had been submitted to the city two months before it was set to open, but contained insufficient security planning—furthermore, security for an event of its size typically requires a year. The organisers claim that "from an artistic and organisational point of view, it is not possible to screen the first part a year later," but maintain that nothing has been cancelled yet.
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