The image of two politicians locking lips on the face of the Berlin wall is enough to make you stop in your tracks.
But the recent tag on the famous image is what caught my eye when visiting the East Berlin Gallery last week.
Defacing art is kinda uncool in my book, but I suppose that’s part of street art’s appeal — the risk of subjecting a masterpiece to the public and to the elements and allowing both to interact with the work as they will. That interaction is part of what makes this form of art so powerful. Everyone who walks by it plays a role in its message, just by seeing it and having a reaction, and someone used that accessibility last week to express their frustration with recent Russian policy against homosexuals on a famous painting titled, “My God Help Me Survive This Deadly Love.”
A brief history lesson for ya…
The original piece was produced in 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and depicts a famous moment from 1979 when Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Communist Part of the Soviet Union, and Erich Honecker, the leader of the Socialist party of East Germany, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the German Democratic Republic with a big ‘ol smacker.
The German “Democratic” Republic was the name for the very undemocratic government that ruled East Berlin when the country was split in two, following the second World War. The Soviet Union took control of the East, creating a communist government that slowly chipped away at its citizens rights until eventually constructing a wall in 1961 to prevent them from escaping to the much freer West. The wall divided Germany, as well as the city of Berlin, until 1989 when vehement protests finally overpowered the GDR and the wall was torn down.and back to today…
Last week, 5,000 marchers came together in Berlin to protest the recent “Family Values” bill passed in Russia that forbids “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, placing fines of up to $31,000 for distributing information pertaining to the LGBT community to minors, holding gay pride events, and any act of “equating gay and heterosexual relationships“.
Germans are no strangers to the dangers of singling out groups of people, and the ease at which legislation can snowball into ghastly segregation. I won’t go so far as to make the Hiltler to Putin comparison, (but um, he passed anti-homosexual laws as well).
Whether we’re talking Holocaust Germany, or Cold War Germany, it’s a country that knows an ugly past, and has spent decades paying for and learning from those difficult times. Its a past that likely plays a role in their fierce opposition to Russia’s recent legislation which blatantly rules against the freedoms of a specific group of people.
The protest, held on August 31st, urged the public to join the LGBT community and their supporters to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics, set to take place in Russia. The words “Stop Homophobia in Russia” were added to the famous painting as a part of that protest.
A country that forces people to hide their identity is not a country that the protestors will support, and after learning of the unbelievable laws that Russia has recently passed, thanks to a poignantly placed tag on the East Side Gallery, I won’t be supporting them either.
(Which is really hard because I LOVE the Olympics. Just not these ones.)
The East Side Gallery can be found at Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, just a few stops away from the central station at Alexanderplatz in Berlin, and I highly recommend a visit to the historical landmark and its recently renewed art gallery that stands as the largest outdoor gallery in the world. If you make your way over there, let me know if the tag still stands, and if any other statements surrounding Berlin’s opposition to Russia’s ugly legislation have been created.
What do you think of “My God Help Me Survive This Deadly Love” and the message behind its recent addition? Is it a powerful statement or a reckless defacement of an already powerful piece of art?