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    Posted June 26, 2013 by
    Berlin, Germany
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel photo of the day

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    50 years later: Remembering Berlin's History and JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" Speech


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Canadian beetraveler visited a photographic exhibit near Berlin's iconic "Checkpoint Charlie" last December, the most famous (and infamous) crossing point of the old Berlin Wall marking the division between East and West of the once divided city. She felt it fitting to send images of tourists admiring the exhibition the week of the 50th anniversary of U.S. President John F. Kennedy's famous Cold War era "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, which lent support to the citizens of what was then West Germany. The speech is played on loudspeakers while attendees admire the blown up images. "While I was there, I heard a couple other North American tourists who also were surprised by the speech," she said. "I heard a few reactions in English such as 'oh wow... Is that JFK?'"
    - sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer

    JFK's June 26, 1963 speech was iconic. Remembering it reminds us of Berlin's difficult past as a city caught between two worlds --  as the free world, which included West Germany and West Berlin, took heightened pride in their freedom as they peered over at East Berlin, and East Germany, with frightened awe.

    "Ich bin ein Berliner" was a declaration of freedom.

    During my last trip to Berlin, I took these photos at the Asisi Panorama exhibit  -- a life-sized depiction of a section of the wall as it could have appeared in the 1980s.

    The Asisi exhibit, which is essentially located at Checkpoint Charlie, is an important part of Berlin's efforts to recognize this difficult and divided past while also embracing its renewed solidarity and moving forward as a vibrant, diverse, and richly artistic city.

    As I have recently begun exploring more photography, I became fascinated with the visual appeal of this exhibit, and
    it impelled me to capture it in photos. However, it was not the exhibit on its own that intrigued me but rather it was the viewers' interactions with it. The multi-dimensionality of this Berlin Wall exhibit was truly striking. I used to love studying this type of inter-textuality as a Lit major, and this was my first glimpse of a powerful visual equivalent.

    Photographs can be powerful.

    Within this art panorama, there were many people depicted looking at (and over) the Berlin Wall. And then we, the modern viewers, stood looking at this picture of people looking at (and over) the wall. And some of us were even standing on a real viewing platform, behind the painted viewing platform. On the viewing platform, we became
    viewers standing behind (and watching) the other viewers who were looking at the painted people who were looking at (and over) the wall...

    It was impossible to ignore the layers of the scene in which I stood. We, the modern viewers of this life-size art piece, were as much a part of the exhibit as we were viewers of it.

    And as we all stood
    as part of this exhibit, JFK's June 26, 1963 speech played on the speakers, bringing an even greater gravity to the experience of being modern tourists curiously looking at this life-sized artwork of West Berliners and tourists looking at (and over) the wall dividing West Berlin from East Berlin.

    And it is this layered, and nearly surreal, experience that I have attempted to capture in these photos.


    When I looked at the photos on my camera's screen, I was amazed by how well a photo captured this multi-dimensionality while also showing the modern viewer as essentially one with the exhibit. In some of the pictures, the viewers blend into the painting so seemlessly that it is difficult at first glance to differentiate them from it. In the first photo, it looks as if the modern boys are interacting and talking with the painted boys. One has to look at the picture at least twice before one realizes which boys are not painted.

    As a final confirmation that the people viewing the exhibit are indeed meant to become a part of it, there is an opportunity
    on the way out to interact with the exhibit even more directly. An entire wall along the exit passageway is designated for people to leave their signature. So, of course, I did.


    While I have visited a number of art exhibits during my travels, this one truly stands out and was a true "experience." I left the exhibit pondering freedom, and how we experience and "look" at it when directly faced with its opposite...

    Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama also took her daughters to this Asisi exhibit during an official family visit to Berlin, and, in fact, the current picture on the Asisi website shows Michelle Obama viewing the signature wall. President Obama also recently referenced the JFK speech during his Berlin visit last week.

    I took these photos during my winter (Dec/Jan) trip to Germany this year. All photos taken by me.
    I have permission from the exhibit to publish these photos.

    Yadegar Asisi regularly creates lifesize panorama exhibits. This Berlin Wall exhibit will remain up for a few more months.
    More info about this particular exhibit:

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