How to commemorate at the east side gallery?

Selfies in a place where people were shot and killed? "Maybe it sounds strange, but in the 21. In the 21st century, it’s okay to take a selfie," says a young tourist from hungary. "I wouldn’t say it’s inhospitable," agrees a friend of his.

The two stand at berlin’s east side gallery, the longest remaining part of the wall that fell 30 years ago. Smartphones, selfie sticks, cameras as far as the eye can see. Millions of visitors flock here every year, the east side gallery is a hot spot for trips to germany and visits to berlin. Almost 30 years ago, artists painted the east side of the wall. After the fall of the berlin wall, the building on the spree took on a new meaning. The visitors from hungary were well informed before their trip to berlin and also visited other historical sites, such as the memorial at bernauer strabe. Selfies are just part of it for her.

But what about those who don’t know their way around?? A young woman from frankfurt poses at another graffiti of the east side gallery in front of the cell phone camera of her girlfriend. "We’re really just looking for a place to eat," the 29-year-old says. The east side gallery? Never heard. They noticed the colorful art as a suitable background for their photos blob. "I think it looks full already." For what they make the pictures? "Maybe instagram".

Even on the internet people get upset about supposedly uninformed visitors. "You can hardly see the actual wall because of all the people taking pictures," says one user on the "tripadvisor" rating portal, for example. "For these people it is just cool to stand in front of it." They are not aware of the history at all.

Without the artworks, the section of the wall would probably have been torn down, says axel klausmeier. He is director of the berlin wall foundation, which is also responsible for the east side gallery. "The main message is clear. It’s about the artistic appropriation and the peaceful and joyful overcoming of the wall."Nevertheless, one must not forget that people also died here during escape attempts in GDR times.

Tourists with selfie sticks, who are not always aware of history, don’t bother klausmeier – but quite different things do. "All the fringe appearances, the hut players and actually all that this mass tourism also brings with it, is naturally not so optimal."The 54-year-old also takes a critical view of sales booths on the wall. "I think it makes the place cheap. It turns it into a fair."

Instead, the mauerstiftung zeitgemabe wants to answer the question of design. "Of course the situation as it is there at the moment is anything but worthy of a gallery."Guided tours, apps and information about the artworks will inform visitors in the future. In the future, the offer is to be improved, the distance to the wall is to be enlarged by the installation of a kind of railing, the fubganger path is to be significantly widened. In addition to structural questions, the future of the east side gallery must also be considered together with the former artists.

118 artists from 21 countries had redesigned the wall in spring 1990. One of them was jim avignon. The berlin artist still remembers well the beginnings during the turnaround period. "It looked very different, all these buildings that are here now, did not exist. There were lots of trabants passing by in the mornings and evenings. The air was incredibly bad. After a day of painting, you were sure to have an asthma attack," avignon says in front of his "piece" at the east side gallery.

Most tourists probably believed that the wall had always looked like this. "This wall was naturally virginal in east times, because you risked your life painting on it here."A kind of museum at the east side gallery would be conceivable for him, in order to better pick up the tourists.

Avignon is not bothered by self-portraits: "everyone who visits a city inquires about the sights and walks around them. And nowadays you just take selfies in front of it."But it is good "that the wall as such still exists and at least stimulates reflection and discussion".

Two married couples from reutlingen, strolling along the east side gallery, have a similar opinion. For them, the wall has great significance as a memorial site – they experienced the events at the time. The fact that tourists sometimes just take selfies? Not bad, says ute zeile: "if the young people come here just to see the art, they see a piece of the past and deal with the fact that there used to be a wall that divided the city."

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