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Light Research @ MMU

A temporary and permeable border of light: Berlin’s Lichtgrenze

Posted by Josiane Meier

From November 7-9 2014, Berlin celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall with a light installation that first retraced and then re-erased the structure that separated the two parts of the city from 1961 to 1989. The “Lichtgrenze” – literally the „border of light“ – created by Christopher and Marc Bauder, a media artist and a film director, was composed of some 8.000 white balloons made of natural rubber that were tethered to the ends of slender carbon poles. LEDs mounted at the top of the poles gave the large balloons the appearance of being illuminated from within. Placed in an accurate line following some 15 km of the path of the Wall (not as straight as one might expect), they resembled a string of big pearls hanging in the night air.

Lichtgrenze-Norweger-StrThe Lichtgrenze provided an occasion for thousands of Berliners and visitors to engage in a sort of massive night hike along the former border. Through this, what might be considered quite a static installation was transformed into an interactive monument: people weaved between the lights, occasionally stopping to take pictures, give one of the poles a push to make it sway, to chat or puzzle over whether they were now standing in what was once the East or the West. At intervals along the way, people gathered to watch historic film footage projected on screens and paused to read stories that brought to life the Wall’s gravely threatening qualities.

 

Lichtgrenze-Brücke-v-untenEvery so often, the Lichtgrenze was complemented by informal lighting interventions, such as a group of memorial candles placed at the head of Schwedter Steg (a narrow bridge), and incidental illuminations, such as the sodium-vapour streetlight that illuminated the translucent portraits of the Wall’s victims at the memorial site at Bernauer Straße. These small – and generally not very bright – spots of light that accompanied the formal installation may or may not have been part of the plan; they certainly greatly deepened my experience by embedding the perfect-looking border of light in its imperfect context.

Lichtgrenze - Schwedter-Steg-sm

Having noticed the lights’ cool bluish hue, I was somewhat surprised to read later on that the balloons were not only intended to remind people of the dimensions of the wall, but also to symbolise the candles carried by many during the peaceful revolution in the autumn of 1989. While the cool light didn’t exactly create a candle-light atmosphere, it was likely a good choice in this case as it allowed for the luminous border to set itself apart from the significantly warmer-toned street lights. The installation was even clearly discernible from high in the air.

Lichtgrenze-RegViertel_2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/geoiss/de/home.html

After being in place for two nights and two days, the installation culminated in its own dissolution: each helium-filled balloon was released into the night by its very own “Ballonpate” or “balloon patrons” following an orchestrated sequence. The balloons carried with them cards containing messages from their patrons. Unfortunately, it was quite difficult to keep track of the balloons as they went up: no longer lit from within, they immediately all but disappeared against the overcast sky, which had a glow all of its own from the city’s lights. I wonder how it would have been if the architectural illuminations and bright billboards (I hardly dare say the street lighting…) had been switched off for the half hour during which the balloons were released. Against a somewhat darker sky, they might have stood a better chance.

Lichtgrenze-Charite-Ballonflug

 

November 12th, 2014 - 13:06pm

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