Virtuelle Mauer / ReConstructing the Wall (2008)

"Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall" is a virtual reality (VR) artwork, an interactive 3D computer graphic installation that enables users to experience a section of the Berlin Wall in its former complexity. As in a 3D computer game, users can wander along the Wall – not in the role of the omnipotent border guard, gun in hand, but in the role of a normal Berlin resident who must live day in and day out with the presence of the Wall.

The project was developed in close cooperation and with the support of the Berlin Senate Chancellary for Cultural Affairs as an integral part of its Memorial Concept for the Berlin Wall. In 2009 it won the Grand Prize of the IBM Innovation Awards at the Boston Cyberarts Festival.

Further partners, supporters and sponsors of the project include: Primary financial sponsor Hauptstadtkulturfonds (Capital City Cultural Fund of Berlin), Berlin Wall Documentation Center, Museum for Communication in Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany State Department, Goethe-Institut Boston, Dr. John Czaplicka, PhD – Harvard University Center for European Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Center for Advanced Visual Studies, metroGap e.V. – Association for Urban Theory and Practice, Bitmanagement Systems and JSC Softline/Ukraine.

Full Description

The VR installation Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall is an interactive, kinesthetic and immersive encounter that will give users a sense of how it was to live „in the shadow of the Wall.“ The virtual artwork is installed on the hard drive of a Windows PC. The image of the virtual world is projected life-sized via a video projector onto a 3m x 5m (~9’x15’) screen. Sound from the virtual world is heard via 2 stereo PC speakers to the right and left of the screen. Users move through the interactive 3D world via a simple joystick that is easy to use for people of all ages, even for those not used to using computers or computer games at all.

The site for the “virtual stage” for "Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall" is a one kilometer (0.56 mile) stretch of the Wall between the West Berlin district Kreuzberg and the East Berlin district Mitte. Archival sounds and images – including material from the former East German Secret Police (Stasi) – are woven into the virtual world, creating a dramatic encounter that involves the user as the protagonist in a surrealist dream. Going far beyond a documentary reconstruction, users’ actions determine the sequence of scenes they encounter. Time travel, animations & simulations involve them in events spanning the 1960s to the present time, conveying a sense of what it was like to live "in the shadow of the Wall."

In addition to the immersive experience of the life-size installation itself, we provide information panels and a project book with explanatory background information on the political context, the social differences between East and West Berlin and the urban situation in our project area.

Work metadata

  • Year Created: 2008
  • Submitted to ArtBase: Friday Oct 2nd, 2015
  • Original Url: http://virtuelle-mauer-berlin.de/
  • Work Credits:
    • Tamiko Thiel, primary creator
    • Teresa Reuter, primary creator
  • Collective: T+T
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Artist Statement

For decades the Berlin Wall was a symbol of repression and of the division of Germany, Europe and indeed the entire world into two politically opposing systems. For the East German government, that built the Wall to prevent its own citizens from fleeing to the West, it was the “anti-fascist protective barrier.” For the West German government, that refused to officially recognize its existence, it was an “unlawful” consequence of the East-West conflicts of the Cold War.

Only a year after the fall of the Wall in November 1989, almost all traces of the Wall had been removed. As the premiere symbol of the division of the world into two opposing political systems, people in both East and West Berlin wanted to eliminate the Wall as quickly as possible. For those who did not experience the Wall themselves, the effects of this structure on Berlin’s urban space, and on the political and sociological divisions engendered by this “Wall in people heads,” are not comprehensible today. The VR artwork "Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall" allows this now vanished structure to speak of the emotions and conflicts it engendered and represented in the past.

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