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Thu June 20, 2013

Photography Cross-Stitch And Rebuilding The Berlin Wall

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 2:23 pm

How do you photograph something that's not really there? Like the Berlin Wall, for example.

Diane Meyer, an assistant professor of photography at Loyola Marymount University, has one approach: She takes pictures where the wall once stood, prints them out, and then literally rebuilds it with a needle and thread.

The fall of the Berlin Wall decisively marked both the physical and metaphorical end of an era. But memory doesn't really work like that. We can dismantle a physical barrier, but its traces will persist — either in the landscape itself or in collective memory.

That's what first struck Meyer about the Berlin Wall — how, even in its physical absence, it has somehow remained. Wandering through the now-vibrant neighborhoods, she says, "it was hard to imagine how they'd be divided so severely — and how that would have been part of the visual landscape every day."

Meyer interprets what the separation must have felt like by obscuring the image with cross-stitching.

"The sewing is raised off the print and becomes a barrier — and a pixelated view of what's behind it," she says. "I'm equating memory and forgetting with digital file corruption."

That mental leap — from the Berlin Wall's legacy to digital file corruption — is not a huge one.

Because at least in the case of the Berlin Wall, some physical remnants remain to cue our collective memory. But moving forward, if we want to demarcate history — or even just our lives — into chapters, will we able to draw lines in the sand if so much exists in the cloud?

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