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The Berlin Wall Project, Boston College

In the Berlin Wall Project, "Freedom Without Walls," the goal was to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down.  The cut out sections represent: a see-saw form with heads at each end suggesting the balance of power issues around the Cold War, an architectural passageway representing freedom without walls as if individuals could pass freely from one side to the other, a two-headed running figure representing the struggle to attain passage between East and West Berlin when the wall existed, and organic cut out sections and sections cascading to the ground representing the power of freedom to overcome the Wall and the German population literally tearing down the Wall with hammers and whatever was available.  The Berlin Wall Project addressed the peaceful transformation that took place at the end of the Cold War as well as the issue of walls throughout history and those that exist today.  The form of the wall section is meant to be visually strong enough to include the contributions of all skill levels of participants.  Its visual and conceptual strength comes from the language created between the various contributions, the sum of the total being far greater and more interesting than the parts.

The first group of individuals to add imagery and text to the wall was a group of high school students from Palestine and Israel visiting Boston College for three weeks in the summer of 2009.  They were using art-making activities as a way of healing and opening conversations about their differences and similarities.  I was in charge of a brief collaborative workshop with these students using clay as the medium.  One young woman spent an entire hour writing the word "peace" in a wet clay slab, erasing it, and writing it over and over.  At one point, several other young people helped her.  In the end, once she had a version she was willing to keep, she wrote:  "peace" written in the clay over and over.  The young people spent the rest of the afternoon and late into the evening talking about what peace meant, a word that would seem to have universal agreement.  It turned out that for some Palestinian youths, peace meant getting rid of Israel and getting their homes back, and for some Israelis, it meant getting rid of the Palestinians and having their own country.  Only by understanding where each other came from could they move forward.  The organizers of the workshop were concerned that the young peoples  participation in the adding to the wall would bring up to many issues.  After having the opportunity to talk about it ahead of time, they were able to contribute in a major way.

In mid-October, students at Boston College wrote their own expressions of social justice on the interactive sculpture which was dedicated in a formal ceremony in the presence of the Dean, faculty, students, and a representative from the Consul General's office in Boston. The sculpture comes down symbolically on Monday, Nov. 9, to mark the historic event in which the universal desire for "freedom without walls" became a reality, closing the curtain on the Cold War.

Mark Cooper Sculptor, Adjunct Associate Professor Boston College, Fine Arts Department


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