Hans W. Mende
An exhibition by the Foundation Brandenburger Tor organized by Matthias Harder
On October 3, 2009, the Day of German Unity, and on occasion of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Foundation Brandenburger Tor in the Max Liebermann House will open the exhibition 'Szenen und Spuren eines Falls. Die Berliner Mauer im Fokus der Photographen' (Scenes and Traces of a Fall. The Berlin Wall in the eyes of photographers). This historical change is presented in an individual and, at the same time, exemplary manner in 140 works by 21 renowned photographers. The Foundation Brandenburger Tor has its seat directly adjacent to Germany' s national monument. For the Foundation it is both an opportunity and an obligation to document the fall of the Berlin Wall exactly here at this place, which formed the centre of events at the time.
The exhibition puts together groups of works and individual pictures by Wilfried Bauer, Wolfgang Bellwinkel, Sibylle Bergemann, Thierry Buignet, Dietmar Bührer, Norbert Enker, Thomas Ernsting, Harald Hauswald, Kai-Olaf Hesse, Karl-Ludwig Lange, André Kirchner, Barbara Klemm, Eberhard Klöppel, Werner Mahler, Hans W. Mende, Nelly Rau-Häring, Karsten de Riese, Gilles Peress, Regina Schmeken, Ralf Schuhmann and Maurice Weiss. The selected photographers (and some of their colleagues) have accompanied this revolutionary political change during the autumn of 1989 and its subsequent developments and thus produced historical source material of high significance. In the exhibition we witness exuberant avowals of friendship against the backdrop of the provisionally opened Wall and we look into the faces of still grim looking and frustrated border guards and customs officers whose days were numbered.
On November 12, CNN star reporter, Peter Arnett, was already reporting live from the Brandenburg Gate. The coverage of this topic by the international media, which is documented in some of these photos, testifies to the international significance of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Time and again it is the Wall itself, covered with creative paintings in the West and in natural grey on the Eastern side, which forms the focus of the pictorial interest. The wall in the hinterland is also depicted occasionally.
The open Wall - from prominent places such as Potsdamer or Pariser Platz to remote bridges between Johannisthal and Rudow - remains the Leitmotif. The first moments of the connection between East and West, when a break was cut with heavy-duty gear, are referred to over and over again. The exhibition "Scenes and Traces of a Fall" shows the various aspects of the fall of the Wall using individual styles and different approaches set anywhere between journalistic and classic architectural photography. Some describe the fall of the Wall spontaneously on location with all of its inherent sense of drama, others photographed either systematically or with a certain reserve as if they did not trust neither the situation nor themselves. Taken together, the result is a visual study of German-German self-consciousness, for which photography seems the ideal medium. Despite the debate about the authenticity of pictures, photography is such a powerful medium that it is able to stimulate, guide or even eclipse our own associations.
The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue (German/Engl.) published by Nicolai-Verlag, Berlin, including texts by Monika Grütters, Norbert Lammert and Matthias Harder.