Born in the 1960 in the GDR, a generation “without fatherland and without mother tongue”
I read this quote by German author Heiner Mueller some months ago and it has haunted me since, and might be the explanation for my constant obsession with the past in East Germany. My generation was brought up in one side of a divided Germany, without knowing the other; any creative pursuits were dictated by the restrictions of communism that the wall represented.
With the fall of the wall my roots planted in a totalitarian system became irrelevant. The system revealed itself as an economic and political failure constructed of lies, and mis information.The culture I was brought up and worked in, which has ended up behind glass, securely roped off with admission prices and visiting hours. These iconic sites once forbidden, filled with terror or dread are now only shells containing memorabilia. Our experiences of totalitarianism have been transformed into numbers and facts, printed on leaflets, picked up when entering museums in Berlin.
While living in Berlin the darkroom was a refuge to me, a magical place, a timeless world. The negative, the direct evidence of the real, revealed qualities and details that are unseen in the positive image. Simulating the traditional photographic process and creating negative prints, I am forced to reinvestigate what I know.
A wall section has been rebuilt in Bernauer Strasse. Viewing the structure from the museum’s platform reminded me of the little platform opposite my family home, where people in the west could look over the wall at us like animals in a zoo. When I visited The Stasi headquarters, now a museum, the familiar smell of wallpaper, linoleum, tiles and utility furniture brought back the same feeling of numbness I always felt when visiting official buildings.