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A Wall Rises and Falls in Warren Nook


 
Berlin Wall Exhibit in Warren Nook

By Elaina Taylor

Students pose for a photo with their professor in front of an art exhibit that they created.
Students in GER 447 pose with Professor Beate Warden in front of the art exhibit they created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Photo by Michael Watkins for JMU Technology and Design.

November 9th, 2014 marks the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a milestone in history that heralded the end of the Cold War. To commemorate this momentous event, Professor Beate Warden of the Foreign Language Department and the students of her German Reunification class (GER 447 – Special Topics in German Civilization and Culture: Reunification) created the Fall of The Berlin Wall: 25th Anniversary exhibit that is on display from Wednesday, October 22nd until Saturday, November 15th. The display physically divides the Warren Nook with a makeshift wall of the students’ creation, characterized by original collages depicting their interpretations of the story of the Berlin Wall.

Originally constructed in August of 1961, the Berlin Wall was built in response to the millions of East Germans who defected from the German Democratic Republic under Soviet control. The Berlin Wall effectively brought emigration from East Germany to a near standstill, and those who attempted to flee were shot and often killed. As a physical embodiment of the Iron Curtain behind which East Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe had fallen, the wall soon became symbolic of communist oppression.

“The students’ goal will be to create collages, to tell the story of the Berlin Wall through pictures with some short explanations,” Warden says of the exhibit. One side will be representative of East Berlin, and by extension East Germany, while the other of West Berlin and West Germany. Viewers can expect to find stark contrast between depictions of life on opposite sides of the wall – vibrant shades of freedom polarized by barren, colorless life under oppression. The aim is to allow the audience a “look at the wall from the German perspective…to reflect on history, and to consider the value of freedom.”

Addressing its pertinence, Warden and her students “also are trying to communicate the relevance to the American viewer.” American foreign policy impacts the international world, and this exhibit also addresses “how it influenced Europe at that time in the 20th century.” The hope is that viewers will reflect on a tremendously defining time period in history and gain a better understanding of life for the German people divided in this ordeal.

Since its inception, the idea for the exhibit has been ever evolving. In attempts to make it more realistic, there was discussion of mimicking the metal piping along the top of the wall that hindered climbing, and making the “western” side interactive with sections open to alterations (make one’s own mark on the wall), representative of the West Berliner’s ability to graffiti on their side of the wall.

“Barbed wire might not be allowed though,” quipped Professor Warden.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the German program is also putting on the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall film festival, spanning from October 22nd to November 12th. Films will provide a snapshot of life in Germany during the division of the country and its capital, with lectures and discussion afterward. (More information can be found on the Personal Wellness Passport Calendar). Professor Warden decided to incorporate the film festival and exhibit as part of the curriculum for her GER 447 class to make it more of a hands-on experience for the students.

Do not pass up this opportunity to view a snapshot of history and a striking reminder of freedom’s worth. Step into the past at the Warren Nook with the Fall of the Berlin Wall: 25th Anniversary exhibit beginning Wednesday, October 22nd. The Warren Nook, which is curated by the Madison Union Art Galleries, is located on the 2nd floor of Warren Hall, beside the information desk and down the hall from the post office.

Published: Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Last Updated: Friday, April 6, 2018

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