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From Belfast to Baghdad, See the World’s Dividing Walls

When Lieutenant-Colonel Harald Jäger made history by opening the Bornholmer Strasse checkpoint of the Berlin Wall at 11.30 pm on November 9, 1989, without any orders, an eager young photography student named Kai Wiedenhöfer was nearly 300 miles away in the city of Essen.

At that time, the lensman was unaware that Jäger had effectively ended the separation of East and West Berlin that had existed since 1961; one that had restricted the free movement of citizens between the Soviet administered east of the city and the Allied administered west.

But that evening, one of Wiedenhöfer’s professors called with simple instructions: get to Berlin as fast as you can. The wall is coming down. This is huge: “We jumped into a car and raced all the way to Berlin,” Wiedenhöfer tells TIME. “[We] got to Potsdamer Platz at about four or five in the morning.”

Kai WiedenhšferPotsdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany, 1989.

Over the following days, Wiedenhöfer captured the activity as the wall was gradually dismantled. He was there when East German security guards watched crowds of East Berliners stream through to the west on foot and in their Trabants, and when West Berliners welcomed them on the other side.

But now, 25 years after the wall came down, it seems more and more separation walls are going up. The Guardian estimates that at least 6,000 miles of barriers have been built worldwide in the last decade alone. Wiedenhöfer says he sees this fact as flying in the face of globalization’s promise to remove all barriers.

So in 2003, encouraged by a colleague at a Swiss newspaper, he started photographing the walls separating Palestinian territories from Israel. Later, he visited the towering peace lines of Belfast, the monolithic edifice of the Baghdad Wall and the 22-foot high Melilla border fence (which separates the Spanish exclave from surrounding Morocco), among many others.

Kai WiedenhšferWest Berlin, Germany, 1989.

It was a project that took seven years, and one that was sometimes fraught with difficulty. In a few locations, safety was a concern. In others, access could pose problems. Wiedenhöfer also received criticism for portraying, as some saw it, only one side of a story (by photographing, say, one side of a wall). “I have no personal involvement in these conflicts,” he explains. “For me it’s mostly to get the best angle of the barrier or the best light situations.”

It is the visual similarity of Wiedenhöfer’s work that is perhaps most striking, though. When placed beside one another, his images seem to blend into a tableau of partition and separation, in which Belfast becomes almost indistinguishable from Baghdad.

It might not be so surprising, he says, because what he found in each place was often the same: “When you build a border, or fence, the life [of the area] mostly dies down and people move away.”

“This is a phenomenon you see in every place.”


Kai Wiedenhöfer is an award-winning photographer based in Berlin. His book Confrontier is available now.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox.


TIME Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams Freed from Police Custody

BRITAIN-NIRELAND-POLITICS-MURDER
Peter Muhly—AFP/Getty Images Republican party Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, left, next to Sinn Fein politician and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness, talks to the media during a press conference at a hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on May 4, 2014 following his release from Antrim police station where he was detained for questioning over a 1972 murder.

The 65-year-old Irish republican politician was released without charge Sunday, after being arrested Wednesday on suspicion of ordering a 1972 killing while serving as the Belfast commander in the Irish Republican Army

Updated 4:13 pm E.T.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was released without charges from police on Sunday after spending five days in custody.

Earlier in the day, the Associated Press, citing an anonymous police source, reported that the 65-year-old Irish republican politician would not face charges over a 1972 killing, but that police would send prosecutors a file of potential evidence against him.

Adams’ release was delayed by two hours due to angry loyalist protestors, who attempted to physically block his release until police officers, many of whom were clad in riot-proof gear, escorted Adams out of the building through an alternate exit.

Adams was arrested on Wednesday following allegations that he ordered the 1972 killing of a mother of 10 while serving as the Belfast commander in the Irish Republican Army. He has denied the accusations.

Adams’ detention period was due to expire Sunday. Police would have had to charge him or seek permission from a judge to extend his time in custody, as they did Friday.

According to the BBC, Sinn Fein politician and Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said his party may no longer be able to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland following Adams’ time in custody.

In response, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, accused Sinn Fein of trying to blackmail the police with “republican bullyboy tactics.”

[AP]

TIME

Sinn Fein Leader Arrested for 1972 Murder

FILE - Sinn Fein Chief Gerry Adams Arrested In 1972 Murder
Olivier Douliery—Getty Images Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams attends a St. Patrick's Day reception in the East Room of the White House on March 17, 2011 in Washington, DC.

Gerry Adams, the leader of the Irish nationalist party, surrendered to authorities for questioning over his alleged role in the Irish Republican Army's abduction, murder and burial of a 37-year-old mother of 10 from Belfast more than four decades ago

Updated: Thursday, 7:03 ET

The leader of the Irish republican group Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, was placed under arrest Wednesday for suspected involvement in the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, one of Northern Ireland’s “Disappeared.”

Adams denied any part in the murder before turning himself in to police in Northern Ireland.

McConville, 37, was a widowed mother of 10 when she was abducted in front of her children in Belfast by the Irish Republican Army, shot, and buried in secret after being wrongfully accused of being an informer, the BBC reports. Her body was found at a beach in County Louth in 2003 and several arrests related to her case have been made in recent months.

“While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville,” Adams said in a statement. He called her killing “a grievous injustice to her and her family.”

[BBC]

TIME Out There

Radical Freedom: Gareth McConnell, From Belfast to Ibiza

Northern Irish photographer Gareth McConnell's experimental images infuse representations of civil liberties and political unrest with rave culture and mass communication

Photographer Gareth McConnell speaks to Anne-Celine Jaeger about his recently published book Close Your Eyes. They met in London to discuss civil liberties, mass communion, Ibiza and printing techniques. Here is an edited transcript of their two-hour discussion.


You say your book, Close Your Eyes, is a “frenzied reworking of your accumulated archive.” It contains images from your Ibiza series, from God & Man, from Night Flowers, as well as images culled from the Internet, and yet it goes beyond a straightforward monograph. How did this book come about?

The germination was a meeting with Bruno Ceschel from Self Publish, Be Happy, who was interested in doing a book with me. Looking at much of my work, I realised there was a huge disparity between its aspirations and what it ended up looking like. This was an opportunity to free myself from self-imposed restrictions and just go for it. I then really got stuck in it for five or six weeks just mashing everything up, working together with an amazing bookbinder, and something emerged from it all that expressed what I was trying to get out. The freedom of being able to use other bits of found imagery to shape the narrative and punctuate it with different ideas really helped.

It feels like a hugely personal piece of work. We see ravers in communal rapture, psychedelic skies, but also the fear of potential disappointment . . .

I remember going to a rave, taking ecstasy and dancing all night in Belfast in 1990 and the world completely changing, going home the next morning and putting all my old records under my bed and thinking, “From now on, all I want to do is dance.” I was in Northern Ireland, literally sharing a dance-floor with members of the IRA and UVF [Ulster Volunteer Force]–on acid–at the height of The Troubles. Ibiza was this mythologised place. I thought everything in Northern Ireland was shit, therefore anywhere else must be brilliant. I went to Ibiza filled with expectation. Though I had some incredible experiences there, ultimately it ended up being a series of disappointments. My epiphany came years later when I read Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving. It touched on the orgiastic experience and the tools we seek to overcome aloneness as a human entity–including music, drugs and mass communion. So when I first started taking pictures in Ibiza, I was looking for people who were aspiring to a particular idea. I was looking for disciples drawn to this place, like I had been, to try to find some kind of oneness or unity.

The book is also dotted with found imagery of key moments in recent British history, where civil liberties were savagely attacked. You also feature, for example, a bit-mapped image of a purpose-built Barratt home, suggesting conformity and uniformity of thought. Are you making a political statement?

Yes, there is a political aspect to the book. The title of the book, Close Your Eyes, refers both to the aspect of getting completely off your tits, that feeling of ecstasy, of losing yourself, but also to closing your eyes to the horrors of all that’s going on. It’s like we’re encouraged to get off our head but discouraged from participating or understanding the world around us. I think Robert Anton Wilson’s quote from Sex, Drugs & Magick (1987) really sums it up: “The heretic of the 21st Century might be, not a man who takes a drug the government forbids but a man who refuses the drug a government commands.” We all need to wake up a little bit.

When did you start the process of dismembering and re-assembling images (“Ibiza Mistakes”), and using found imagery (God & Man)?

It started in 2008, when I was so dissatisfied with my own work, the failure of it–the fact that I’d developed this particular idea, but was unable to express it. It was the year my daughter Sorcha was born, and the first year I didn’t go to Ibiza. I was totally broke and was printing out images of the Ibiza series at home and the portraits came out all lined and faded and I realized they said more than the original photograph, so I further manipulated them, by running them repeatedly through the photocopier. Off the back of this I decided to make new work using only the really low-fi methods, such as my home printer, the internet, the photocopy shop and the local pharmacy for digital prints. That’s also when I started working on the God & Man series, where I multiple-exposed found images of sunsets, using the last of the Kodachrome film, and made Cibachrome prints out of them.

The printing in Close Your Eyes is exquisite, some of the images are so thick with ink they are almost fluffy, others are super glossy like pools of nail varnish. Why was this attention to color and texture so important to you?

I wanted to make something that not only communicated its ideas successfully but that was also a real experience to hold and look at, and one of the strategies to achieve this was to put real art works and prints in the book as opposed to reproductions of those art works.

Tell me about your publishing company, Sorika.

Sorika has no particular agenda other than the realising of interesting ideas, books, prints, shows, films–for the love of it. It started with Chris Wilson’s book Horse Latittudes, which I published in 2013. I’m currently working on a re-working of Tom Wood’s Looking for Love and will soon be publishing A Concise Reference Dictionary of Art by Neal Brown. I really enjoy the collaborative process. After all those years of working for myself, it’s a real release.


Anne-Celine Jaeger is a writer base in London, and is the author of Image Makers, Image Takers

Gareth McConnell was born in Northern Ireland in 1972 and graduated from the Royal College of Art. Recent exhibitions include Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography at Belfast Exposed and Observers: Photographers of the British Scene from the 1930s to Now, Galeria de Arte Sao Poalo, Brazil. Donlon Books, London, is hosting a book-launch and signing on April 17th from 19.00-21.30. His book Close Your Eyes is avialable now. For more on Gareth McConnell visit www.sorika.com.

 


TIME In Progress

Twisted Nostalgia: Life After the Troubles

Northern Ireland is no longer riven by violent conflict but, as photographer Adam Patterson discovered, peace doesn't happen overnight.

A graffiti-ridden wall dividing Protestant and Catholic communities. A teenage boy defiantly packing drugs into a battered homemade bong. A man gazing at a memorial wreath nailed to a brick wall. The whitewashing of a propaganda mural – the last of its kind. These are the scenes of modern Belfast. The images, both resonant and ordinary, are part of photographer Adam Patterson’s series, Men and My Daddy. The collection of photographs – which features both documented stills from Patterson and found images – tells the story of how the members of Northern Ireland’s largest loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defense Association, are adjusting to life after the notorious Troubles.

Courtesy Adam Patterson

“I felt it was a really interesting time; it was a transitional period,” Patterson, who was born in Northern Ireland, said of the country after the fighting had ceased. For decades Northern Ireland was largely characterized by violence and terror as the country divided into two camps: the Protestant unionists and the Catholic nationalists. In 1971, the UDA emerged as a force to be reckoned with, instigating some of the region’s most mobilized fighting. When the conflict was brought to an end and paramilitary groups pledged their commitment to the peace process, the UDA – much like Northern Ireland – was faced with the task of reinventing itself.

Intrigued by the work that was being done, Patterson built relationships with several members of the community. He began documenting one project that focused on repainting the various murals around the region, which featured armed men in what was part of a “fear campaign” established by the UDA. “The idea is to change the murals so they still symbolize the traditions of the area, but not in a violent way,” said Patterson. But soon he became interested in what the reformed men — and their offspring — were dealing with internally as well. Though many were committed to change, Patterson noted that it was a lot easier said than done: “Obviously when people sign up to the peace process minds don’t change overnight.”

As he spent more time at home in Northern Ireland, he came to recognize the different way the country’s youth, who’d only heard of The Troubles secondhand, viewed the process towards peace. “The young people kind of become frustrated that they’ve been cheated out of fighting for this nostalgic idea that’s passed down through the generations,” said Patterson. “They don’t hear the tales of misery or the prison sentences, they only hear these elements of nostalgic stories. They feel like they’ve missed out.” Photographs of youths continuing the traditions of the previous generation — such as building massive bonfires while still being wary of rival youths — attest to the deceptive allure of the country’s history. It’s what Patterson calls a “twisted nostalgia.”

Yet as he became more immersed in his work, Patterson soon felt his own feelings about The Troubles growing complicated as well. “Obviously, I was initially quite apprehensive about it because I didn’t know much about [former UDA members] besides what you’d read in the newspapers which is never good,” he said. “Whether I’ve met these guys or actually think they’re nice guys, is irrelevant to some extent. What the organization stood for and what the organization did was terrible. That’s not excused. But a lot of these guys today would think the same thing.”

Though Patterson maintains that he doesn’t shoot to “change people’s opinions,” after working in his native country he’s come to appreciate the biggest challenge facing these reformed extremists: forging a better path for their sons and daughters to follow.

“It’s about helping young people find a passion,” he says, “so they have something to try and emulate beyond their uncles and forefathers in the very recent history.”

Adam Patterson is a Northern Irish photographer. More of his work can be seen here. Patterson is currently showing work from his project A Very Normal Place at RUA RED in Dublin.

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