The Wall in View; the Wall Itself                                                                  page 1

by John Czaplicka, Harvard Center for European Studies

Insights are found by thinking through things, if one is concerned about the meaning of space. To have thought through something entails a virtual passage through time and space. And this is especially true if one ponders those places where events of significance have taken place. If the spatial surroundings of eventful places exist no more and all trace of any happening has been wiped away -- as in the case of the Berlin Wall - then the once eventful can hardly be recognized and becomes almost unimaginable.

What use is it to resurrect a tidbit of wall that cannot convey the confines and finiteness of space, the "just up to here and no further," and that obdurate sense of imprisonment that breeds uneasiness? With its extended physical presence the Wall spoke in such forbidding and threatening ways. No matter how designed, a wall fragment and memento displays only one dimension of the Wall's former being. The memento stands isolated and emptied of its message by the dynamic and open spaces of the freed metropolis that now surround it.

Experiencing the Wall was otherwise. Once allowed into the labyrinthine security of the built expanse dividing Berlin, you had no assured egress. One waited before searching and suspicious eyes, waited for a passport to be returned, waited to exchange money, waited for entry into the next box of the border maze. Metal gates and doors divided the shifting enclosures of a machinery of state. The complexity, variability, and duration of the Wall's experience cannot be conjured up by mere images in a museum. And only Kafka could capture the feeling of helplessness that filled the lasting interval between entry and exit. Waiting within the grasp of the Wall seemed an eternity. No one expected it would fall.
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