Seventy thousand citizens gathered on the streets of the East German city of Leipzig on October 9th, 1989, after churches opened to accommodate protesters disillusioned with the oppressive East German regime, the Cold War, and the structural and geographical scar the Berlin Wall had represented for the past 28 years. This massive confluence was the culmination of weekly prayer meetings organized by Christian Führer, the pastor of St. Nicholas Church. Some might call it a stretch to conclude that this single demonstration was the spark that fanned flames of protest that ultimately brought down the regime in the autumn of 1989, though many have proposed and echoed the notion. A quarter century later, that eve at the least stands as potent symbolism of the populace moment that would build over the next month. As the streets of Augustusplatz in Leipzig filled to the brim with protesters clutching hope and candles close, a collective consciousness began bearing witness.
Berlin after the opening of the Wall on November 11, 1989, view of Brandenburg Gate and crowds; Archiv Bundesstiftung Aufarbeitung Fotobestand Uwe Gerig
Now, just over a year after the removal of a section of the Berlin Wall to make room for a building project, Berlin rallies to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the historic fall of the Wall. Slinking through the city today, its traces are increasingly elusive as luxury apartments spring up all over the ever-growing international districts of the city’s center, pushing the scar ever further into distant memory. To reinvigorate the consciousness of the people, the non-profit cultural organization Kulturprojekte and the Berlin Wall Foundation, at the initiative of the State of Berlin, have called on a mobilization similar to that seen the night October 9th in Leipzig: an invitation to bear witness and an urgent call to collectively remember.
Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE at Engelbecken; © Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder; Photo: Daniel Büche
From November 7–9, Berlin will be temporarily bisected by the Lichtgrenze, a 15 km installation of 8,000 luminous white balloons designed by Christopher and Marc Bauder. The balloons will float from Bornholmer Straße to Mauerpark in the city’s north, from the Berlin Wall Memorial on Bernauer Straße to the Reichstag, past Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie in the city center, to the East Side Gallery along the Spree River in the east. Collectively, they will vibrantly re-expose the historical fission of a city. If the skies are clear, the split should be visible from space.
Visualization of the LICHTGRENZE at the Park at Nordbahnhof; © Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder; Photo: Daniel Büche
The biodegradable latex balloons will be set on flexible carbon rods extending 11 feet high, reflecting the original Wall's dimensions. Along the border 100 information boards will narrate specific events related to the locations, including deaths related to border crossing and a video collage of Wall-related historical martial will be displayed on 14 LED screens along the Lichtgrenze. A culminating community event at 7pm on Sunday will send all the balloons soaring into the sky as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony echoes through the streets at the Brandenburg Gate.
Commentary on Fall of the Wall 25
While the physical gesture might seem imbued with finality—a letting go or a cathartic purge—there has been an effort to reconcile this with a struggle to retain, to never forget. Social media and online community rallying has played an influential roll in democratizing the event beyond the borders of the city. People were able to sign up to become balloon release patrons on the event's micro-site Fall of the Wall 25. Parallel with the installation, stories, memories, and wishes are being collected on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the event’s website, resulting in an online vault that commemorates and sheds lights on today’s perspectives both domestic and aboard. People around the world are invited to participate using the online portal to become a symbolic, virtual balloon patron, releasing their stories to the online community.
You can read and contribute stories about the Berlin Wall here and check out the project video, below, to see more imagery from Lichtgrenze:
(Image at top: Visualization of the LICHTGRENZEat Brandenburg Gate; © Kulturprojekte Berlin_WHITEvoid / Christopher Bauder; Photo: Daniel Büche)
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