berlin wall / walls of separation project

Photography / Dimensions variable / 2007

In my project, Walls of Separation, I investigate the phenomenon of erecting walls as a means to draw a line between two conflicting parties. I consider how governments use these walls as a method for economic polarization and religious segregation by justifying them as a means of defense against a politically hostile or economically competitive ethnic group.

My Dutch passport enables me to visit areas that are either prohibited to specific local residents or difficult to access. As a foreigner, I can move comparatively freely from one side of the wall to the other. By taking advantage of this privilege I am able to create images that reveal concealed details from the other side to the walled-out neighbor, demystifying the other and adding a layer of humanity to these separation walls.

My artistic approach to this project is to explore forms of representation beyond the standard expectations of documentary imagery. By taking photographs of carefully selected areas of each wall, a form that often results in something closer to an abstract image, albeit an image that retains identifiable characteristics of it, I reveal distinctive visual markers that provide a tangible and immediate sense of place. I reveal inscribed messages, of scars and remnants of protest, of personal and non-personal impressions, that might otherwise go unnoticed in a broader documentary perspective. Such an aesthetic may seem constrictive or limited given the controversial nature of the subject matter. However the images hold readable traces of the conflict and struggle and the source of their broader context. The intimacy of the images will facilitate the viewer’s movement, his or her engagement, from the barriers themselves to the people affected by them.

An intimate inspection of the wall surface informs us about its impact on the lives of those people who interact with it on a daily basis. Through people’s expressions, the wall transforms into an apparatus that actively holds and communicates information.

Walls of Separation project, serves to raise public awareness and to elicit a dialogue concerning the individual, the community, and the social cost of enforced restrictions upon human mobility. Within this dialogue we can begin to address both the practical issues and the social causes of such walls, as well as their possible demise.