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The story of Keith Haring’s courageous Berlin Wall mural (which is now lost to history)
08.11.2017
10:23 am
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What is the most politically effective thing that a street artist has ever painted on a wall? Was Banksy the person who did it? Did it read “ROMANI ITE DOMUM” (or “ROMANES EUNT DOMUS” for that matter)?

Of street artists to whom we can apply a specific name, you could certainly argue that Keith Haring was the one who takes the prize, for his hundred or so meters of familiar Haring-esque figures that he painted on the Berlin Wall in October of 1986. It was a big enough deal to make the New York Times the next day.

To review: The East German government put up the Berlin Wall in a surprise move in 1961 to keep its citizens from defecting to the West. The Berlin Wall was a very serious business; more than 100 East Germans were killed over the years attempting to escape the dictatorship.

One of the best-known gates through which to pass from East Berlin to West Berlin and vice versa (with the proper documentation, of course) was Checkpoint C, which quickly became known as Checkpoint Charlie, as it became something of a tourist attraction for Westerners to take photographs of the ominous barrier.

The entirety of the Wall lay a couple of meters inside East German territory, which meant that the many West Germans who eventually decorated the Wall with provocative art were technically violating East German sovereignty and in theory were fair game to be shot by the many vigilant East German guards on patrol.

In the mid-1980s, the director of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, a man named Rainer Hildebrandt, extended an invitation to Keith Haring to come to Berlin and use the Wall for his canvas. When Haring received word of the invitation, he was touring Europe and was eager to exercise his agitprop instincts in a world-historical manner by attempting to “destroy the wall by painting it,” which in a way was exactly what ended up happening, not to overstate Haring’s importance to that process.
 

 
In order to prepare for Haring’s visit, employees of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum painted a hundred-meter stretch of the wall yellow according to Haring’s instructions. The next day, October 23, 1986, Haring “completed the mural in somewhere between four and six hours,” which is pretty remarkable when you think about it, even though Haring’s ability to work quickly was surely honed by his years defacing the walls in the New York subway system in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

According to Haring, “I decided on a subject, which is a continuous interlocking chain of human figures, who are connected at their hands and their feet—the chain obviously representing the unity of people as against the idea of the wall. I paint this in the colors of the German flag—black, red and yellow.” Haring called the provocation a “humanistic gesture” as well as ‘‘a political and subversive act—an attempt to psychologically destroy the wall by painting it.’’ As the New York Times reported the next day,
 

Since the first six feet of land on the Western side belong to the East, the artist was not just defacing property of the East German Government—he was entering that country without a visa. A West Berlin policeman used a megaphone to warn him of the fact. But Mr. Haring continued, sporadically leaping back onto Western soil when East German border guards looked as if they were about to arrest him.

 
As soon as East German guards ascertained that Haring was not “defaming” East Germany, they left him alone to proceed with his art, even though he had technically entered East Germany without official authorization.

Haring was asked whether the mural was just a publicity stunt, and he replied, ‘‘The main objective here is that it is not an insignificant act that goes unnoticed. The entire world should know that it happened, reinforcing its political significance.’‘

Hilariously, the New York Times quoted a young citizen of Berlin who scorned Haring’s contribution to the Cold War art, saying ‘‘This is Valium, there’s no provocation in it. In every third toilet in Kreuzberg you can see the same graffiti.’‘

Haring’s mural did not last long at all. According to Jennifer Mundy of the Tate Museum in London,
 

That night or early the next day, however, someone painted large sections of the mural grey, perhaps in political protest against the upbeat message of the American’s work. Quickly, other artists and graffitists painted on the hundred-metre section that Haring had used. Within months there was very little left to see. Paradoxically, it was not censorship by the East German authorities that Haring needed to have feared but other artists.

 
Here is how Haring’s contributions looked just a short while later:
 

 
On February 16, 1990, Haring died of AIDS-related complications, so he was still alive when the Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989. Remarkably, just eleven months earlier, Erich Honecker, the longtime leader of East Germany, who would crucially no longer be in power by the end of October, predicted that the Wall would stand for at least 50 more years. He was only off by about 49 years.
 

 
More after the jump…...
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.11.2017
10:23 am
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East German soldier helps a little boy sneak across the Berlin Wall, August 1961
08.13.2013
12:49 pm
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This is a photograph of an East German soldier helping a little boy cross the newly erected Berlin Wall the day it was built, August 13, 1961. In the chaos of the day the boy was somehow found on the wrong side of the wall from his family. Despite being given orders by the East German government to let no one pass into East Berlin, the soldier helped the boy sneak through the barbwire. It was reported that the soldier was caught doing this benevolent deed by his superior officer, who removed the soldier from his unit. Hopefully his punishment was minor and he wasn’t imprisoned or shot. Descriptions of this photo come with the caveat that “no one knows what became of him.”
   
Hearst Metrotone News documentary about the building of the Berlin Wall, 1962, below:
 

 
Via Tumblr

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright
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08.13.2013
12:49 pm
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Michael Caine: Behind the scenes of ‘Funeral in Berlin’

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I always preferred Len Deighton’s anonymous spy to Ian Fleming’s James Bond. There was something too glib and unexciting about Bond, like Superman you knew he could never be defeated, which made it all rather pointless. Whereas Deighton’s spy was fallible, awkward, funny and quite often messed things up.

When it came to the films, it was a more difficult choice. Sean Connery made Bond his own, and has never been equalled. But Michael Caine was equally successful with his interpretation of the Deighton’s insubordinate spy (now named) Harry Palmer in a trilogy of brilliant spy films. Of course, he later nearly blew it all by making two sub-standard Palmer films in the 1990s, the less said about which the better.

Here is Michael Caine with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the second Palmer movie, Funeral in Berlin. The quality of this video is not brilliant, and yes, it does have an irritating text written over it, but there is enough fascinating things going on to make Man on the Wall very watchable.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

The true story behind ‘The Mackintosh Man’


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.16.2012
08:43 pm
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High Noon on Friedrichstrasse: The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

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Let’s start with the painting, for that was the sign something ominous was about to begin.

In East Germany during the Cold War, you didn’t join the Stasi, the Stasi asked you to join them. This is what 19-year-old, Hagen Koch discovered when the Stasi approached him and said, “We need you to help secure our country’s peace.” 

Koch arrived in Berlin on April 5th, 1960, to a city without a wall, without barbed wire, without division. He had been chosen for a specific job and was soon promoted to Head of Cartography.

It was a warm day in August 1960, when Stasi Private Hagen Koch arrived at Checkpoint Charlie and started painting a white line. No one took much notice, which was understandable, only in the following days would the enormity of Koch’s actions become apparent. For unknown to Berliners and the West, Koch was marking the ground for the building of the Berlin Wall.

Years later, Koch said the Wall was not against the West but “against the population of East Germany.”

It was also the first sign that East Germany’s so-called “Workers’ and Peasants’ Socialist Heaven” had failed, and marked the start of the slow and difficult demise of Soviet bloc Communism. 

Moreover, the creation of the Berlin Wall led to a standoff between Russia and America that nearly caused World War Three.
 

 

 
How the Berlin Wall nearly led to War and how holidays brought it down, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.14.2011
01:20 pm
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Waiting for the Communist Call: Propaganda and reflection as the Berlin Wall turns 49

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The seemingly borderless nature of our digital age renders bizarre the idea of nationalized walls separating people. Current items like the Israeli West Bank “security” barrier and the demand for a wall on the entire Mexican border just seem absurd and brutal.

Those were walls that kept people out. Today marks the 49th anniversary of a wall that kept people in and fired the imaginations of artists like Pink Floyd, David Bowie and the Sex Pistols.

In an effort to stave off “fascist” influence from the West, German Democratic Republic General Secretary Walter Ulbricht closed the border between the Western and Soviet sectors with barbed wire and fences, on order from Nikita Khrushchev. It soon became the symbol of national alienation.

Below are two of the most fascinating pieces of media about the Berlin Wall that I’ve found. Walter de Hoog’s The Wall was produced by the United States Information Agency, the global propaganda arm started by the Eisenhower administration in 1953. Strangely, the USIA was prohibited to screen their films to the American public, so this stark, immediate and emotive piece wasn’t released here until 1990.
 

 
After the jump: Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker’s remarkable narrated slide show of his 40 years covering the Wall…
 

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Posted by Ron Nachmann
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08.13.2010
05:01 pm
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