Brandenburg Gate, Berlin – Crossings: At Crossroads


At Crossroads

12-30 October 2009

In front of the Brandenburg Gate, Platz des 18. März, Berlin, Germany

The Akademie der Künste presented the installation “At Crossroads”, by the Greek artist Kalliopi Lemos, on the Platz des 18. März, in front of the Brandenburg Gate (Berlin). It was the third part of a trilogy of public artworks, begun in 2006 and installed in the cities of Eleusis, Istanbul and Berlin. The work was on view in connection with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It appeared under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and was organized in collaboration with the Hellenic Migration Policy Institut in Athens.

Through the Crossings interdisciplinary art project that reached out to countries, institutions and the migrant within each one of us, Kalliopi Lemos wished to bring the issue of migration to the public’s attention. Pressing home the sensitive issue of illegal migration by using the actual boats that carried the illegal migrants in their crossings from East to West, Lemos created an unparalleled trilogy of installations, which conveyed universal values of solidarity while investigating crossings from country to country, from life to death and the potential of these crossings as a source of regeneration.

The simple, wooden, Turkish boats used by migrants still bear a palpable historical, emotional and conceptual freight that makes the work an ode to human suffering. The artist herself has come to see the boats as truly sacred objects. By treating the public space occupied by the boats as a stage for the tragedy of the human condition and for the historical dimension of the migration issue, Lemos was able to initiate a dialogue between the works, their particular sites and their viewers.

For the culmination of the series in the final Berlin installation, the artist presented nine authentic boats. Four boats at the bottom of the installation formed a cross symbolizing Berlin as a crossroads of policy making and migration in Europe. The impressive size of the installation – 13 meters tall on a space of 180 sqm – was essential to its effectiveness in a public space. The fragile objects from which it was built were linked closely to the tragic journeys that are often organized by human traffickers and cause 3,000 to 4,000 deaths every year.