Peace Wall, Nada Prlja (1-50/236)

Venue: Friedrichstrasse, between Besselstrasse and Hedemannstrasse

At the southern end of Friedrichstrasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg, London-based artist Nada Prlja erects a »peace wall.« Despite its immediate associations in a formerly divided city, her project doesn’t refer to the historical Berlin Wall, but to the social segregation present in this area today. Friedrichstrasse is a major shopping street and North-South axis, which runs from Torstrasse in Mitte to Hallesches Tor in Kreuzberg; before 1989 it was also bisected by the Wall.

Today a large part of the street is filled with posh boutiques and fancy restaurants, but at its southern end this gives way to a »problem« neighborhood with social housing projects (once located on the periphery of West Berlin), high unemployment rates, and a population with up to 70 percent migration backgrounds. This »invisible« partition, which exists today in the middle of the city, is marked by the construction of Prlja’s wall. It visualizes social and economic inequalities, the existence of »parallel societies« in the city, and the positions of the advantaged and underprivileged. Perhaps it is no surprise that the process of getting permission to erect this work was blocked by different interest groups and community members, including school authorities and private and public bodies. The very location of Prlja’s wall represents the space where certain communities lose their ability to influence the decision-making process, and makes concrete the necessity to fight for their rights. It is also a place where one of the anti-gentrification battles in the city failed. The barrier’s many references include Northern Ireland’s policy of building »peace lines« to prevent conflict between the Republican and Loyalist factions, the current wall building operations in Cyprus or the West Bank, as well as the phenomenon of gated communities, which have sprung up all over the world to segregate the wealthy from the poor. With this wall, Prlja points to the realities of the existing and growing economic and social segregation lurking around the corner.

Nada Prlja is an artist whose work focuses on public art. Born in Sarajevo, she lives in London since 1998 and has a Macedonian passport.

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