Following iconic images of rock and roll, flower children, and the Vietnam War, the picture of the Berlin Wall is a central memory of the Western World that is important both politically and aesthetically. The Second World War completely devastated Berlin, leaving a bombed-out husk of a city that was quickly populated by squatters, anarchists, and artists, among others, as the metropolis dealt with the physical and emotional traumas of the war. Within this landscape, the Berlin Wall represented not only a physical divide between the American and Soviet territories, but also a symbol upon which people of various identities could project their dreams for a new state and frustrations with the current world order.
The Wall in Our Heads: American Artists and the Berlin Wall focuses on a small subset of the city’s population, ex-patriots of the United States who either visited the city seeking inspiration or who self-exiled to Berlin in political protest. The artists featured range from Chuck D, the frontman of the rap group Public Enemy, to Keith Haring, the activist and street artist, and span from pieces created originally at the wall or on the wall to contemporary pieces.
Through this diversity of artists and periods, the exhibition brings up questions that confront both the political realities contemporary to the wall and current questions of immigration along the Mexico-US border. Subsequently, our role as viewers is to not only see the works as references to a historical fact, but as hypertext that might link back to the past or jump forward to the future, perhaps providing us some clarity or at least questions with which to understand the current refugee crisis playing out now in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
The exhibition will be up at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery from October 23rd – December 13th. A keynote talk with The New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman will take place on Friday, October 23rd at 4:30pm in Sharpless Auditorium and will be followed by an opening reception at the gallery.
More information can be found at http://exhibits.haverford.edu/thewallinourheads/.