May 15th 2014

Kai Wiedenhofer: Freedom Forward

@ DANK Haus German American Cultural Center

4740 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625

Opening Thursday, May 15th, from 6PM - 9PM

On view through Friday, June 20th

On the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, award-winning photographer Kai Wiedenhöfer illuminates the psychology of borders and raises probing ethical questions. This anniversary will be celebrated for one entire year as a National Exhibition Tour spanning from the East to the West Coast. The tour will officially begin in Chicago with opening remarks from German Consul General, Dr. Christian Brecht, on May 15, 2014.

Kai Wiedenhöfer photographed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. He was deeply moved by the historic event, calling it the most positive political experience of his life. It left him optimistic about the future. He thought he had seen the end of walls like the one that divided his city for 28 years. This idea proved to be wrong, walls have made a big comeback.

From 2006 to 2012, Wiedenhöfer documented border walls and barriers in eight conflict zones around the world with large format panoramic cameras. The work was published in the volume CONFRONTIER by Steidl in 2013. When he visited Northern Ireland in 2008, he thought the so-called “peace lines” dividing Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods might start to come down. Instead new walls were constructed and old ones were reinforced. Further, Wiedenhöfer has also been to the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, and the 700km of walls in Baghdad built by the U.S. Army. In all, he made 21 trips to the eight different barriers.

Through his work he aims to illuminate the psychology of borders, to raise questions and probe our experiences. He intends to reveal us as participants, sometimes unwittingly, but participants nonetheless. And while barriers are a protection, they are also a cage. This is an invitation to open a dialogue and try to understand the people on the other side.

Kai Wiedenhöfer: “Walls are no solution for today’s major political problems, and I think the Berlin Wall is the best proof of that.” These days it’s hard for him to imagine a world without walls. But he wants to remind people what Berlin demonstrators chanted in 1989: “Die Mauer muss weg – the wall has to go.”

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