Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Painting between the walls - a documentary by Alexandra Zanne

I met Alexandra Zanne when she was filming for a documentary about the Sylvestre Verger Berlin Wall collection when shown at the Palais Royale in Paris, May 6th, 2009. Asked why, she started to explain the documentary she was working on: painters who had left their mark on the Berlin wall as long as this barrier between East and West Berlin was still standing, and who continued to stay in Berlin after the wall had come down.


Her way of moving in-between people impressed me. She stays close to the ground and yet remains attentive to the needs of others. It makes her documentary film into a true work of art.


                    Alexandre Zanne

Inspired by her own feelings of having to face throughout her life a kind of wall, the subject of her documentary reflects what happens not only once the said wall has come down, but what it means to live between four walls! It is more than just a search for a breath of fresh air.

Another aspect has to be taken into consideration. Given her background, it may explain why she has developed such a great sensivity for is implied by being literally fenced in. Where she lives near Mets and Nancy, she knows about the hard and complicated border between France and Germany. The relationship between the two has been more than strained in the 19th and 20th century.

She became curious what happens when people end up living just between walls. Meant are literally the four walls which make up a room often called a home by those who have no other space to live in. Like a prison cell, the personal space is experienced as if living in a box. It can drive people insane, especially if they return home day after day and discover nothing has changed. Their search for a better life is put by the sight of the small room once more ab surdum.

Claustrophobia is a Greek term which decribes well what people go through once they panic if they get stuck in an elevator or when the metro halts while deep in a tunnel.

Unfortunately the reality of so many people is that they remain trapped in a kind of hidden struggle like a fly in a spider's net. The more they struggle, the more they confront their spatial confinement. It takes a poet to imagine a prison cell to be the open sea. Her documentary work can be best described as an effort to set free precisely the same kind of imagination.

To do the documentary Alexandra Zanne visited frequently Berlin where she interviewed painters who had done some art works on the West side of the wall, and which Heinz J. Kuzdas has called the first real public art. Everyone could paint, and indeed paint over what someone else had expressed before. But these artists are of special interest to her since they are the onesb who have also stayed on in Berlin after the wall came down. That historic event in November 1989 is generally called in German "die Wende" - the turning point. For these painters it may be a question as to what their paint brushes want to do now. As such the documentary becomes a way to trace those signs on the wall now gone safe for a few samples left to be viewed by tourists coming to Berlin when they go to the East Side Gallery.

More important is how she blends into her documentation the new Berlin twenty years later. The wall had come crumbling down to the hammers as if everyone had become not a wood- but wall-pecker. Some of these modern images can be traced when visiting the Bundestag with its new construction on top of the roof called "Kuppel" like a dome of a cathedral and yet made out of glass to symbolize the need for democracy if the democracy in the name of the people is to flourish.

The old-new Parliament: Reichtstagsgebäude with a new attire


                People lining up to enter the Bundestag

                 with the Chancellory in the background

Inside the "Kuppel" as symbol of democracy: TRANSPARENCY









                        View towards Brandenburger Gate and Holocaust Memorial


When walking along the water route, we met one Social Democrat from Saarbrücken. The photographer Hartmut Schultz had joined us just a few moments before and he recognized him immediately. He was coming from lunch and seemed to be deep in thought. Yet he did respond to our question as to why the politics of the Social Democrat after Schröder was in such a crisis? He admitted that the party had ignored for too long the question about social justice. That admittance can explain quite a lot as to what the reunified Germany had not managed so well. It reflects a gross neglect of German politicians as to what matters more than a mere success within the successful branches of society leaning on a dynamic economy which creates new walls with a sharp cutting edge where many fail to climb over and therefore never have any success.



                            Channel at Friedrichstrasse


Alexandra Zanne filming inside the First Cemetery of Berlin


                   Grave stones for Hegel and Jacobi

Curiously enough we discovered that Hegel and Jacobi were buried very close to one another. Ironically the two had a huge dispute about the role of "the certainty of the senses" (in German: "sinnliche Gewißheit"). While Jacobi affirmed them, Hegel denied that the senses could ever be a source of truth. Likewise he denied poetry as if he wished thoughts to be confined forever not in-between walls, but to a world constructed solely out of concepts. It led Hegel to say, "if reality does not fit into the concept, too bad for reality!"

While walking through the cemetery, we discovered the grave of Bertolt Brecht. Lying beside him was Helen. It reminds of the grave of Vincent Van Gogh who has beside him his brother Theo who died only one year after Vincent had passed away. It is known that some bonds are so strong, that once one of the pair dies, the other follows soon thereafter.


                   Grave of Bertolt Brecht

For someone who had lived in West Berlin, the First Cemetery was not accessible until the Wall came down. It may mark another concluding remark in her documentary that being unified in life as well in death can also be a spell Berlin can put on all who have decided to live within its walls. Definitely I am curious what Alexandra shall make out of all these diverse materials. The last time we spoke about this documentary, she told me that it is still very far from being completed.

Hatto Fischer


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