Deutsches Haus, 420 W. 116 St., New York, NY 10027
In the USA, building walls is currently in high demand. A look at German history shows how art and politics meet at walls. The Wall built on August 13, 1961, actually held until November 9, 1989, when the people tore it down. From the beginning, the Wall was not only a built structure but also a political symbol. Political art is about the sovereignty of interpreting symbols, and it produces dissent for that purpose (Jacques Rancière). With the spectacular performance installation First Fall of the European Wall, which took place between Berlin and the outer borders of the European community, the German artists of the Center for Political Beauty called attention to the fate of North African refugees on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Wall. These refugees are prevented from immigrating to Europe by a new wall. And with his performance installation Prototypes—which took place between December 21, 2017, and January 28, 2018—the Swiss artist Christoph Büchel and his nonprofit organization MAGA (Make Art Great Again) reclaim the sovereignty of interpretation over the eight prototypes that were made for the Mexican wall last year. In my talk, I will show how walls become zones of ambiguity in such performances.