Where the Berlin Wall Once Stood

Even after a terrible barrier comes down, an artist conjures its haunting presence

Checkpoint Charlie (2015) © Diane Meyer / Courtesy Klompching Gallery, New York
Basketball Court, Park am Nordbahnof (2013) © Diane Meyer / Courtesy Klompching Gallery, New York
East Side Gallery (2014) © Diane Meyer / Courtesy Klompching Gallery, New York
Diane Meyer walked the entire 96-mile perimeter of the former wall to take pictures for her hand-sewn photograph series “Berlin.” Above, Brandenburg Gate, 2015. © Diane Meyer / Courtesy Klompching Gallery, New York
Interrogation Room of the State Secret Police, Hohenschoenhausen (2014) © Diane Meyer / Courtesy Klompching Gallery, New York
Pool Olympiastadion (2014) © Diane Meyer / Courtesy Klompching Gallery, New York

The fall of the Berlin Wall began on November 9, 1989, when an East German official prematurely announced that the government would lift restrictions on travel to West Germany. That weekend, more than two million Berliners streamed across the border, some scaling the wall or smashing it with sledgehammers and pickaxes. Most of the physical wall is gone now, but its lingering impact fascinates Diane Meyer, a photographer in Los Angeles. For her recent series “Berlin” (at Brooklyn’s Klompching Gallery until January 10), she created photographs of places where the wall once stood and then represented it with delicate embroidery—as if all that remained of the barrier were fading threads of memory. Modern Berlin is booming, and sleek new buildings occupy much of the “death zone” between the east and west sides of the wall, but, Meyer finds, “1989 wasn’t that long ago. The wall today is almost ghostlike—even though it isn’t there, you can still feel it.”

Subscribe to Smithsonian magazine now for just $12

This article is a selection from the November 2019 issue of Smithsonian magazine