In what may be the most ironic art unveiling of the year, Manila City mayor Isko “Yorme” Moreno was joined by German Ambassador, Anke Reiffenstual earlier this week to unveil Berlin Wall Fragment number 22 at the Kartilya ng Katipunan park area. The wall fragment, covered in graffiti tags was installed in a protective glass casing and accompanied by an engraved metal placard to educate visitors to the park of the historical significance of the wall fragment.
The Berlin Wall stood from 1961 until 1991 and split the German city into West Berlin and East Berlin during the Cold War. It was perhaps the perfect example of the difference between a free state and an oppressive one, with the West Berlin side becoming the world’s largest graffiti canvas, stretching approximately 27 miles. Graffiti tagging became immensely popular on the West Berlin side of the wall, with artists from all over the world coming to admire it, to leave their mark, and to call for freedom from government suppression on the East-side.
But while the West Berlin face of the wall had such graffiti constantly evolving and completely covering the it, the East Berlin side was kept totally blank as people were not permitted to even approach it. This created one of graffiti art’s greatest juxtapositions, one that is probably still unparalleled almost three decades later.
Since the wall first came down in ’91, the German government has sent a number of these pieces around the world as signs of friendship, in celebration of democracy and of freedom of expression. Many fragments are in presidential or historical museums and it is considered an honor to be the custodian of such a historical wall fragment.
Unfortunately, Moreno’s involvement in the project comes off as a little tone-deaf on the part of the Manila City government, who made front page news throughout the last year in their all out war against graffiti artists and vandals.
Here’s a video from less than a year ago where Mayor Yorme made a show for the media, trying to erase a graffiti tag from international vandal, CLIFF 261. Photos of this PR stunt made the headlines and front page of several of the Philippines’ major broadsheet newspapers.
Almost as a cherry on top of the irony sundae, it’s probably worth noting that CLIFF 261 is believed to hail from Berlin, Germany.