The Peace Wall was a barrier that was 12 m long and 5.5 m. high, consisting of concrete blocks, steel frame structure, MDF panels and corrugated metal panels. It blocked the traffic on Friedrichstrasse between 02.04.2012 and 15.06.2012 and provoked reflections and discussions about socio-economical barriers within modern cities.
Site before the ‘Peace Wall’ was installed
At the southern end of Friedrichstrasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg, London-based artist Nada Prlja erects a 因peace wall.吒 Despite its immediate associations in a formerly divided city, her public art project Peace Wall (realised within the framework of Berlin Bienalle 7, 2012) doesn’t refer to the historical Berlin Wall, but to the social segregation present in this area today. Friedrichstrasse is a major shopping street and North-South axis, which runs from Torstrasse in Mitte to Hallesches Tor in Kreuzberg; before 1989 it was also bisected by the Wall. Today a large part of the street is filled with posh boutiques and fancy restaurants, but at its southern end this gives way to a ‘problem’ neighbourhood with social housing projects (once located on the periphery of West Berlin), high unemployment rates, and a population with up to 70 percent migration backgrounds.
This ‘invisible’ partition, which exists today in the middle of the city, is marked by the construction of Prlja’s Peace Wall, which visualizes social and economic inequalities, the existence of ‘parallel societies’ in the city, and the positions of the advantaged and underprivileged. Perhaps it is no surprise that the process of getting permission to erect this work was blocked by different interest groups and community members, including school authorities and private and public bodies. The very location of Prlja’s wall represents the space where certain communities lose their ability to influence the decision-making process, and makes concrete the necessity to fight for their rights. It is also a place where one of the anti-gentrification battles in the city failed.
The project＊s many references include Northern Ireland’s policy of building 因peace lines吒 to prevent conflict between the Republican and Loyalist factions, the current wall building operations in Cyprus or the West Bank, as well as the phenomenon of gated communities, which have sprung up all over the world to segregate the wealthy from the poor. With this wall, Prlja points to the realities of the existing and growing economic and social segregation lurking around the corner.
Writen by: Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza, Berlin, 2012
Building of the ‘Peace Wall’
‘Peace Wall’ installed on Friedrichstrasse
First meeting at ‘Peace Wall’
01.-15.06.2019 Nada Prlja stayed at the Friedrichstrasse
Last days next to the ‘Peace Wall’
Dismantling of the ‘Peace Wall’
After the ‘Peace Wall was dismantled
Nada Prlja reopened old wounds by building a new wall
Excerpts from an Interview with: Ricki Neuman, SvD Kultur, newspaper, Sweden, Monday 16th July, 2012
A new wall in Berlin has raised international acclaim/attention, led to questions about where the border lie between the intrusion of art into the sphere of everyday/daily lives 〝 and has resulted in protests, which in the end led to the fall of the new wall. ＆I am pleased (satisfied)＊ says the artist Nada Prlja.＆The installation made things happen, and that is what I wanted/hoped for＊.
This spring, the artist Nada Prlja allowed herself to interfere with people＊s everyday lives, hindering their movement through the city, by means of a long, thick and high wall in Berlin, right in the middle of the well-known Friedrichstrasse; this ugly metal construction stopped the traffic on the road, but allowed pedestrians and cyclists to pass by the sides of the wall. The installation was part of the city’s Art Biennale, which this year had chosen politics as its theme; and was also supported by the city＊s mayor. He approved and supported Nada Prlja’s proposal, sympathizing with her good intentions and with her belief that the under-privileged must stand together and join forces in order to be heard.
The latter represents the artwork’s raison d’etre; it doesn’t offer any particular aesthetic or visual values, but instead it represents political art whose aim is to set certain processes into motion.
＆This is exactly where Friedrichstrasse changes its character, you can see it yourself 〝 it starts over there at Kochstrasse＊, she explains, pointing in that direction, as we stand next to her wall, which most of the time is surrounded by people who are either photographing or discussing it, and others who are laughing and shaking their heads, as they observe the graffiti, or read the advertisement posters on the wall.
＆This is exactly where the area becomes poor; where there are more turkish than german residents, and where it is more ＆east＊ than ＆west＊. There really is a wall here already, one which reminds us of the old one, but one which cannot be seen. I am making it visible, but only for as long as the duration of the Biennale.＊
Alot is underway around us. Someone is putting up a new poster. A number of cuyclists have chosen the wall as their meeting place. Several small boys are playing ball against the wall. An older woman sits on a nearby park bench, making drawings of the wall.
At the beginning of May, before the wall was built, Swedish Radio asked the artist how she expected the people on the southern, poorer part of the street, to react to the wall, what they would think of it 〝 and she answered: ＆I hope they are going to hate it＊.
In part, it has become so. Many people loathe the wall. A group of shopkeepers complain that they have had fewer customers, ever since one has to drive a detour in order to arrive as intended. A group of residents say that they are disturbed by the wall, as makes them feel enclosed, as if they were living in a ghetto.
About eighty people from both groups have formed an organization demanding that the wall is immediately dismantled. They have had meetings with the directors of the Berlin Biennale, with the local politicians, as well as with the mayor himself.
In the end, their protests were successful: the wall was brought down on the 15th June, two weeks before the end of the Biennale, before the time it was meant to be removed.
＆I agreed with it, of course,＊ writes Nada Prlja in a later email. But couldn＊t they have waited another two weeks? ＆Yes, One could of course ask oneself that, but that would be focusing on the wrong thing. The important thing is that a community group was created, that the organization was active, managed to change something, felt their strength and won a victory.＊
The artist was thereby forced to complete her project ahead of time, but she was nevertheless satisfied, as a result of all the debates and discussions which had been generated by the presence of the wall, as well as all the letters, emails and phone calls she received 〝 and because of the formation of the citizens organization, which will perhaps become a force to be reckoned with,in Berlin.
Where is the limit of how much trouble the artist may expect people to accept?
＆It＊s all about getting the balance right＊ responds Nada Prlja, in an email. ＆Drivers were forcedto make a detour. The wall eliminated a few parking places. The city/street became a little less efficient. And the citizens probably felt a little bit frustrated for a while. But on the whole, it wasn’t a very large intrusion. In return, something was set into motion.
That is how I work: the aim is to offer people an alternative point of view, a new perspective, by changing something in the city – but as an artist, not as a politician or as a social worker. I have been doing this for a long time. Sometimes it works, and at other times it doesn’t Tilted Arc. Another heavily debated wall was Richard Serra’s ＆Tilted Arc, which was positioned on a plaza in Manhattan in 1981. The sculpture made it difficult to cross the Federal Plaza; it was perceived as being ugly and intimidating, obscuring the sun and attracting rats. After several months of heated debates, the authorities decided to tear down the steel wall, which was cut down into three parts and removed in the spring of 1989.