2003-2012: almost a decade to photograph eight borders around the World. 6386 kilometres of lines drawn across Baghdad and Korea, between the United States and Mexico, separating the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla from Morocco, striating Israel and the Occupied Territories, splitting Belfast and Nicosia (Cyprus) into two. Lines that divided Germany until 1989. Kai Wiedenhöfer’s shots start from there, in Potsdamer Platz the year the wall fell, in black and white. After nearly ten years, the framing is wider, the shots are coloured and give an account of a different present: the new barriers born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as well as the old walls that fail to collapse.
Although constrained by the limited time of war, those of Kai Wieden- höfer are unhurried frames. They have little to do with the “decisive mo- ment” of photo-reportage, rather approaching those “infinite moments” where the present is frozen as in the works of Andreas Gursky or Bernd & Hilla Becher: long exposures where the shadows of roofs and chimneys stand against the wall (Belfast, Bryston Street, 2006), or where the cracks in the reinforced concrete reveal the sky above the border (Berlin, 2009).
The wide-screen format measures the lengths of the walls, the extension of the barriers. The lens contains the whole of the valley, where the wall winds and the twists of concrete blocks interrupt the landscape – white houses on one side, grey on the other. Where cans, coloured bags and rub- ble have the same density of the distant houses of Shu’fat (Occupied Territories, 2008).
Wall after wall, the rigour of the framing shows both its symbolic power as well as its ineffectiveness. Apparently neutral, displayed one after the other, these photographs of reinforced concrete, metal sheets, barbed wire, fences, nets, electric circuits, gates uncover the mise-en-scène of power. At the same time, these shots also record the fleeting gap of a white and thin tree behind the bins in the middle of Nicosia (Cyprus, 2012) and of a stretch of sunlight crossing the narrow and almost unreal door between the concrete blocks of the Bil’in wall (Occupied Territories, 2010).
Presented for the first time in 2013 at the West Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall in the open-air exhibition Wallonwall, in Rome these out-of-format landscapes will be part of a large public art project that will occupy the surfaces of the external walls of Rebibbia and Regina Coeli prisons. Walls on walls, to question the function and the paradox of their existence today, in a time in which, instead of being taken down, new barriers are being erected in defence of “our” Europe and the liquid borders become the moat of the Mediterranean.
Maddalena Parise / lacasadargilla