Back to 1983: The Art of the Berlin Wall

Some 25 years after the fall of the Wall, artist Yadegar Asisi's panorama interprets what the divided city must have looked like.

It is a gray October day in West Berlin in the early 1980s: We are standing on the corner of Sebastianstraße, the street that was literally dissected by the Wall. Its old, once elegant buildings overlook the death strip, with its trenches and land mines. Despite the view, a family has decided to move in, and their furniture is lying on the sidewalk. A few steps away, a man on a ladder paints graffiti on the Wall, while a group of punks chat next to a large Mercedes painted in all colors imaginable. From inside the watchtower on the other side of the Wall, GDR border guards observe daily life in the West. Behind them, a backdrop of run-down buildings covered in Communist posters.

This is how artist Yadegar Asisi remembers an ordinary day of his Kreuzberg life in the early 1980s. His Wall Panorama portrays the intertwined stories of many Berliners and shows how the Wall had become a normal element in their lives. Through his Panorama, Asisi attempted to explain how easily people come to terms with their circumstances: “Today, I am shocked to think of the normality of our lives those days,” he says.

Visiting the Panorama is a very evocative experience that provides a realistic feel for what the divided city once was. The semi-circular installation is 60 meters (177 feet) long and 15 meters (50 feet) high, and the combination of lights and sounds—including important radio broadcasts of the time and Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech—help the observer’s senses to quickly adapt to the scene, which looks increasingly three-dimensional the longer it’s observed.

Yadegar Asisi also created similar panoramas of pre-WWII Dresden and 1813 Leipzig, and he plans to soon start working on his new projects, the Titanic and the Great Barrier Reef.