Separation Wall Global Park: a proposal (2010-11)
The experience of the June 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto reinforced the confusing and disenfranchised nature of our current global socio-economic situation. It also brought into question the level of personal freedom that many take for granted. Part of this was the physical presence of the security fence used during the Summit. Its aesthetic force and the logistics of navigating it transformed the city into a place that we typically only experience through the news. This experience led me to consider the social impact of our relationship to fences, barriers and separation walls found around the world.
In 1973 the East German psychiatrist Dietfried Müller-Hegemann observed that the Berlin Wall caused psychosis, schizophrenia, and phobias in the East Germans who were confronted by it on a daily basis. This syndrome was known as Mauerkrankheit – Wall Disease. The subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall sixteen years later was an event that is widely regarded as the ultimate victory for democracy and free society. How is it then that we find so many new separation barriers and security fences being built around the world, even in Toronto!? Why do the same cultures that once celebrated now implement in their own countries that which they were adamantly against?
Presently sections of the Berlin Wall can be found throughout the greater Berlin area. Many sections have preserved as a modern ruin and function as a memorial to a time when the country was forcibly divided, to the historic consequences of its implementation, and the the global ramifications of its collapse. Separation Wall Global Park is a proposal for a public sculpture that will consist of replicated sections of contemporary separation wall and security fences found around the world. Included will be the Berlin Wall, the USA / Mexico Border Fence, the Israeli West Bank Separation Barrier, the Peace Line Walls in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the security fence used during the G20 summit in Toronto. In all, four continents are represented. Each wall is a result of a unique context, they all share a similar purpose, and they are all connected. They simultaneously serve the function of keeping people out while simultaneously keeping people in, and make it all but impossible for cultures to possibly resolve past conflicts. For those of use who do not live in the shadows of these structures, our experience of these places is solely though media outlets which results in an incomplete and abstract understanding of their fundamental impact on the world. Would we support the use of such force in our own neighborhoods? Do we support their use in other parts of the world? Similar to the remains of the Berlin Wall, this grouping of recreated wall sections could be seen as a monument to a time when their current use has become history and they can be re-interpreted to serve a more positive function. Separation Wall Global Park could be a place to experience in our own backyards signs of oppression that exist in the world. It could play an important role in better understanding the attitudes that led to their creation on a global level, and our relationship to them at a local scale. Is this the future for all cities? Do we need these structures to regulate how we interact with each other? To confront their physically, especially in relation to the scale of local architecture, has the potential of being a sublime experience.
Separation Wall Global Park was developed while living in working in Berlin, Germany, and has involved research trips to each wall location. It questions the personal and social implications of separation walls used by various cultures in other parts of the world on a local level. Can we reclaim ownership of our surroundings and refuse an environment that manifests intolerance and fear? My vision is one of freedom and unity, where public space encourages discussion and not division.
Idea was presented at TEDx Bermuda, October 2011.