Tag Archives: Exhibition

Border Experiences: Everyday Life in Divided Germany

Built in 1962, the departure hall for the border checkpoint at Friedrichstrasse train station soon became known as the Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears), as it was frequently the sight of tearful farewells.

Here, those bound for West Berlin were subjected to passport checks, baggage searches and probing questions.

After the fall of the wall the building was used for cultural events and concerts but was closed in 2006 whilst building work was completed nearby.

In September 2011 the building reopened housing the permanent exhibition, Border Experiences: Everyday Life in Divided Germany.

With personal accounts, interviews, news reels and artifacts, the exhibition tells the story of the wall and the life of citizens in a divided Germany, with an emphasis on the restrictions on travel.

As well as the building itself and the passport control passages, photographic displays and audio commentaries tell the story of the routines and procedures followed here.

A bank of monitors shows still photographs of the surveillance carried out by the Stasi, focusing on the family and friends of those travelling as well as the travellers themselves.

It’s not all about unhappiness though.  Some of the personal accounts told here have happy endings.  Jan Möllmann from the West and Silke Schmidtchen from the East met in 1987 but their relationship was defined by their separation by the wall.  Jan tried unsuccessfully to move to the DDR.  They tried to feel connected through music – Jan listened to Silly and Silke to David Bowie.  After the fall of the wall the pair were able to conduct their relationship on their own terms and married in 1992.

This is another of Berlin’s many sights where you are aware that ‘history happened here’ – lives were altered and a nation was shaped by the events played out in the Palace of Tears.

Of course, the one thing that the exhibition and building can no longer fully convey is the fear that gripped travellers as they queued here and the conflict of emotions (happiness at leaving the country and sadness at leaving loved ones) that people experienced.

Gestalten: Mark Jenkins – Glazed Paradise

The neon sign outside Gestalten Space - a bookshop, gallery and more in Berlin

As I left Barcomi’s Deli, my lunch spot for the day I noticed what I thought was a bookshop across the courtyard and wandered in to have a look around.

Gestalten is a bookshop but it’s so much more too.  The building I had entered is also a gallery and there was a Mark Jenkins exhibition on.

But Gestalten is also a publisher.

And as if that’s not enough there’s also Gestalten TV and the work they do in graphic design and other creative ventures.

The shop has an extensive range of books about art, architecture and there are a number of interesting products for sale: art works, ceramics, jewelry and lots more to boot.

I had read about the Mark Jenkins show and wanted to go.  I’ve been aware of Mark Jenkins’s work for a while now, through Vandalog and Wooster Collective, but never had the good fortune to see any until today.

Jenkins’s work employs a number of ideas and techniques but it is his life-size and life-like figures that have always intrigued me.  He creates these figures by taking live models and wrapping them in cling film and then strips of adhesive plastic (think industrial sellotape).  Jenkins then cuts the resulting shell off the models using zig zag cuts so that the pieces can be re-assembled like a 3D jigsaw.

The resulting mannequins are then clothed and placed in situations that make them art.  Mark Jenkins believes that it is often the interaction of the audience that makes the art works most interesting.

A man sits on the floor reading - a sculpture by Mark Jenkins, part of the Glazed Paradise exhibition at Gestalten in Berlin

The exhibition at Gestalten features three of these figures, as well as photographs of street installations and an impressive ‘Afro’.

Street Art purists often take issue with Street Artists exhibiting in galleries – their argument is that this is ‘just art’.  But how do you classify a photograph of an installation on the street?

Photographs of street installations by Mark Jenkins - part of the Glazed Paradise exhibition at Gestalten in Berlin

I’d prefer to come across a Mark Jenkins installation on the street for the surprise factor but there is definitely a place for his work in galleries too.

The exhibition runs until 4 March 2012.

Gestalten Space, Sophie-Gips-Höfe, Sophienstraße 21 www.gestalten.com

A thug with a baseball bat lies in wait - a sculpture by Mark Jenkins, part of the Glazed Paradise exhibition at Gestalten in Berlin

A girl leans against a wall - a sculpture by Mark Jenkins, part of the Glazed Paradise exhibition at Gestalten in Berlin

An Afro tape sculpture by Mark Jenkins - part of the Glazed Paradise exhibition at Gestalten in Berlin