The virtual exhibition "Standing by the Wall - Berlin 1990" with an extensive selection of photographs by Josef Wolfgang Mayer will be on view at the Koschmieder Gallery until the end of the year.
As a dramatic crystallization point of the Cold War, the construction and fall of the Wall create a bracket that defines the second half of the 20th century both temporally and historically. Images of the beginning and the end of the division of Germany and Berlin are interdependent and have become part of our collective memory.
Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1990, photographer Josef Wolfgang Mayer and gallery owner Annette Koschmieder were working and living in the western part of Berlin in what was then the district of Kreuzberg 36, in the shadow of "the Wall." The world behind the border fortifications seemed far away, the Wall insurmountable. From the upper floors of adjoining houses, one could follow what was everyday life in the so-called "death strip": patrol vehicles driving up and down, armed border guards peering west from the watchtowers, and at night the strip shone illuminated as bright as day from the dark east.
With the fall of the Wall in the fall of 1989, everything changed very quickly. The border fortifications became permeable, the patrol vehicles disappeared, and the watchtowers, abandoned by the personnel, rose orphaned and useless out of the stone desert, providing ample wall space for new graffiti.
The death strip, i.e., the area between the 4-meter-high concrete wall that had been erected to the west and the wall on the eastern side, became walkable and the view from there to the west and east became possible.
The photographer Josef Wolfgang Mayer expressed his amazement at what was now visible with his photographs. In the summer of 1990, before reunification, he took some extraordinary pictures of the Berlin Wall and its surroundings. The color photographs transport us directly into the historical "in-between" of those days and show the Berlin Wall, its breakthroughs and remnants.
The photographs are photographed as triptychs, expanding the field of vision into a panorama and aesthetically picking up on the simultaneity of separation and connection.The work in large format creates precise images, making visible the abundance of details that tell their stories about those tumultuous days and record the gradual changes for our memories.
The dangers that once emanated from this place are still palpable, as is the yearning for connection and change. People and vehicles make their way through improvised crossings and swiftly reconstructed streets. Brownfields emerge as free architectural forms between the burst seams of stone and barbed wire. The summer of freedom had begun. The wound that the Wall had cut across the city and the countryside is still clearly visible - the scar can still be felt today.
The official demolition of the inner-city Wall began on June 13, 1990, and the roughly 1.7 million tons of "construction debris" were quickly removed. Except for short sections that remained as memorials, the Wall disappeared within a few months.
The color photographs by Josef Wolfgang Mayer are contemporary witnesses and lore. The virtual exhibition of the Koschmieder Gallery is complemented by the illustrated book "Standing by the Wall - Berlin 1990" (Verlag Buchkunst Berlin), which takes up the principle of triptychs in its design and becomes part of the journey through time to which Josef Wolfgang Mayer invites us with his photographs.