We have just returned from an extended trip around much of Eastern Europe. Besides sampling the foods and wines, and enjoying the usual sightseeing attractions, we followed a common historical thread: all of these places have been affected in one way or another by multiple invasions and wars on their soil.
The Romans were one of the first to occupy these lands, and later the Mongols swept through. Some, like Bosnia-Herzegovina, were occupied for more than 400 years by the Ottomans, which has shaped that region’s modern history, with, for example, the comparatively recent Srebrenica Massacre.
Many places were ruled for a long time by the Hapsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Some were touched briefly by France and Napoleon Bonaparte.
More recently, the Balkan region was much affected by the First World War, and a chain of events from that and the Second World War led to the creation of Yugoslavia, with Tito’s version of Communism. The death of Tito and the breakup of Yugoslavia led to some horrendous wars and massacres.
The more northerly countries in the region, such as Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, suffered in World War 2 under the Nazis and then under Communism—eventually leading to revolts and revolutions to gain their independence.
So, it was interesting for us to discover a small outdoor exhibition in Paris, where we started the trip. It was in the plaza outside the front of the Gare de l’Est, and was linked to the fall of the Berlin Wall—a symbol of Communist power in East Germany.
The exhibition was the brainchild of Sylvestre Verger, who put it together with the help of Street Art, an international urban artistic movement. They got together 30 fragments of the Berlin Wall, and this is a new collection that pays homage to artists who painted about, and on, the Berlin Wall before its fall. Three of those artists are Christophe-Emmanuel Bouchet, Kiddy Citny and Thierry Noir.
This new collection is called “Art liberté”, celebrating art, the city, the history and liberty. The 30 works are fixed on metal structures that are arranged in two lines in the plaza. Each one has an information board, plus a QR code, and there’s a catalogue plus films of interviews with the artists, available from a caravan-office in the corner. The artists also painted “Trois Trabant”—vehicles that are emblematic of East Germany. It seems to us that being able to paint them however n artist wishes is a very clear symbol of freedom.
All the paintings are very interesting for different reasons. I randomly picked 3 to highlight here.
The first, by Peter Unsicker (1947-) is “Chorus 11”, May 2014 (plaster on concrete). The text says, “X-ray of a yin-yan brain, accumulation of masks, memorial of the absurd.”
The next, by Frank Pellegrino is “Evasion”, April 2014 (acrylic on concrete). The text, “all Berlin’s symbols set in aerosol on the penitentiary remains, cuffing the wrist of humanity.”
And, finally by Daleast is “Continental Climate C”, April 2014 (acrylic on concrete). The text, “The zeppelin exploded. The liberated birds have taken flight. The city has been sown with new seeds. We are growers of freedom and the harvest is ready.”
We really enjoyed browsing this for a while and it got us pondering on the link between art and freedom—so very true, as in a repressive regime artistic expression is also curbed/limited/repressed.