REFLECTIONS ON THE “PEACE WALL” / Berlin Biennale 7 / Nada Prlja

Peace wall, 2012, Site Specific Installation
Carogated metal, MDF, black paint, scaffolding, concrete blocks. 12x5x1.5m.
Berlin Biennale 7, 226 Friedrichstrasse, Berlin.


Friedrichstrasse is a major shopping street in central Berlin, which until 1989, was divided by the Berlin Wall. Today, the northern part of the street is dominated by fancy boutiques, but its southern end gives way to a "problem" neighborhood with high unemployment rates, disengaged youth and a high crime rate. Populated mainly by citizens of migrant background, this area is allegedly the second poorest in the entire city.

'in­visible' borderline between these two parallel societies was marked by the construction of a wall – the 'Peace wall', realised by Nada Prlja within the framework of Berlin Biennale 7. The 12m x 5m structure, blocking and dividing Friedrichstrasse, visualized the social and economic inequalities in this area today, while making apparent the inability and unwillingness of the southern end's residents to influence any decision-making aspect of their own socio-political life.

wall boldly exposed the problems within the community, which subsequently caused troubled interactions between the different 'power entities' involved: the art institution, the curators, the artist, local political officials and the different groupings within the community. As a consequence of those irregular relations, the 'Peace wall' was dismantled two weeks before its officially arranged dismantling.

Through this essay, I aim to reflect on some of the aspects of this uneasy process, today 02.07.2012, on the day of the planned dismantling of the 'Peace wall'.


Excerpts from the essay:

_'…__Which hidden political and
'power' maneuver made the 'Peace wall' possible in Berlin? What was the higher political setting that allowed the 'new' wall to be built on Friedrichstrasse and the street to be divided again, two decades later? Does this act of agreement reveal something about the new politics of a city where 'anything goes', or does it perhaps show a respect for the cultural industry (one of the more lucrative industries that currently generates 20% of the city's income). Or does the situation perhaps demonstrate the remains of a guilty conscience on a national level – combined with the persistent cultural liberalism of Germany, and the tendency to see cultural activity as a positive, therapeutic or pedagogic exercise? The "Peace Wall" was a precise example of these factors, which have become transparent through the artworks' existence.?_

_Although there were many supporters of the wall, the voice of anger has shaped the visual appearance of the wall, with number of graffiti and appearance of vandalism. The community argued with conviction about the feeling of exclusion, stigmatization, ghettoization. Some of the anger generated, mainly directed towards myself, showed a degree of ignorance, but also a sense of superiority and even racism by certain members of the community. The innermost and most honest human feelings have been exposed during the presence of the "Peace Wall." The community found it hard to admit that there are any problems in the area and that they might somehow be responsible for these issues, or somehow creators of the very situation. With a sense of fear, they disregarded the reality that was uncovered and made public by the "wall."?_

_My presence at the site for two weeks was an invitation to the inhabitants to see the situation objectively, to see created situation as an opportunity to actively influence the course of social affairs. Nevertheless, this "objectivity" could only be introduced by myself, through a weird sense of submission (a form of self-sacrifice) and the use of persuasion when talking with the residents. I allowed them to direct their attention to myself, and unwillingly, at this point, I adopted the "role of an artist." Through this, while working on the site, I became separated from the complex engagement I had formed with the other institutional players (curators, art institution and the mayor). The community primarily expressed their aggression against me – the artist. A group of 'angry' citizens were aware of their power over a single individual. The artist was seen as a weak target.?_

_When a
claim is made for a work of art in the public domain to be taken down, the artist has to take that claim seriously and react to the requests? The "Peace Wall" has been dismantled and recycled on 15.06.12, in order to stop this object from becoming a "monument" of past political and social processes. The community around ex-Peace wall is on their way to establishing their own active and engaged peace…'_


NADA PRLJA AGREED TO DISMANTLE THE 'PEACE WALL' ON JUNE 15, 2012"peace-wall"-on-june-15-2012-29834



To be released in September 2012. Order copy from

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