If you find yourself in Berlin, make sure you visit Asisi’s Die Mauer (The Wall) Panorama.
Berlin is a city encased in its palpable history. Remnants of its divided past are hard to ignore, whether it is the feel of the wall memorial cobbles beneath your feet, or the glimpse of the Fernsehturm TV tower as you turn a corner. However, walking in the shadow of the remaining sections of the wall, or standing at Checkpoint Charlie doesn’t quite provide the same feeling as entering Asisi’s Die Mauer (The Wall) Panorama.
Fifteen metres high and 60 metres around, Yadegar Asisi’s panoramic photographic print transports you to a divided Berlin on an autumn day in the 1980’s.
The Iranian-Austrian artist, famous for his panoramic photographic prints, grew up in East Berlin with the wall as his neighbour, and has recreated an average day in Berlin at that time.
You are instantly immersed in a typical scene of 1980’s Berlin, where the menacing wall divides the streets, highlighting the stark contrast between life on the east and west. Sounds of life echo around the circular room, adding to the sensation that you are actually standing outside, on a Berlin street, looking at the notorious wall.
Asis’s The Wall Panorama is located on Zimmerstrasse. Metres away is Checkpoint Charlie. Despite the fact that it is now a tourist attraction, where tourists giggle as they pose with men dressed as guards, it still has the power to give you a chill, if you imagine what it was like back then.
At The Wall Panorama, there is no imagination necessary, as Asisi lends you both his imagination and his memories and transports you back to the Berlin of walls, no-man’s land, fear and a divided city.
Standing outside The Wall Panorama on the bright, freezing and very modern Berlin street, you are unsure of what to expect. You enter a warehouse-like building with high ceilings and a hallway covered in graffiti. People’s names, love declarations and political messages are scrawled and stamped everywhere. The floor, the walls, the stand alone signs of information all carry a coating of words and colours.
There is something special about this area. The history of the wall is as thick in the air as the layers of different coloured scribbles are on the surfaces. It is as though the wall has been reincarnated in a way. You can feel the importance of this room, the importance that made so many before you leave their mark on the walls and floors. Marks of allegiance to those who were trapped by the wall, marks to remember them and to remind ourselves not to forget.
Dispersed along the wallpaper of letters are photographs and information plaques detailing moments of the wall’s history, and people who were affected by the wall. A woman reminisces being allowed to visit friends in West Berlin, and how she didn’t want to leave. A photograph of a couple on their wedding day, standing on an East Berlin balcony that overlooked the West Berlin that they once wandered through freely.
It is easy to forget that this is just the foyer area, and that the main event is yet to be seen. We reluctantly tear ourselves away, after leaving our own mark, and step inside the mind of Asisi, and into Berlin of the 1980’s, a divided city of contrasts.
The echoing sound of the past is unnerving. The room is dark and the round walls somehow display an entirely life-like outdoor scene, filled with so many details that you could stare at it for hours.
A man painting the wall. Children throwing a ball against the wall. Tourists posing for photos next to the ‘You are leaving the American sector’ sign. Punks and graffiti artists, old men and families go about their daily life beside a wall with watchtowers, armed guards and Alsatian dogs guarding the no-man’s land on the other side.
Despite the fact that you know that you are looking at an image on the wall, it feels so real. As you stand and look at no-mans-land, it is chilling. The birds perched on the infamous wall highlight its prison-like structure, as they are the only ones free to come and go as they please.
A figure in a distant window of a dilapidated building, over the wall, makes you wonder what their life was like, looking down on scenes from the West.
I found that there was so much to take in, so many places to let your imagination take you, that I was very reluctant to leave. Passing back though the graffitied room seemed all the more poignant, and emerging into the Berlin of 2015 was a very surreal and poignant experience.
Berlin during the years of the wall is a time I have spent a lot of time imagining. To stand there looking at the physical representation of that time was very powerful. If you are in Berlin and interested in this fascinating time, then you will definitely enjoy a visit to Asisi’s The Wall Panorama.
(For some reason my photos came out with a dark blue tinge, hence the lack of photos of Asis’s Die Mauer The Wall Panorama! )