Anke Fesel and Chris Keller’s (eds.) publication of Berlin Wonderland: Wild Years Revisited 1990-1996 (Berlin: Gestalten, 2014) documents through photographs and eye-witness accounts the now-legendary years of Berlin’s post-Wall existence.
The book is an attempt to capture a city and an atmosphere that no longer exists. In his preface to the book, David Wagner calls this time and space “the Wish-Fulfilment Zone,” where everything was possible. At the time, he claims, “Mitte was a frenzy of repurposing. The magic phrase was temporary use” (p.5).
“There was dancing, there was dancing and drinking. And the eyes of the ruin-dwellers sparkled with happiness of those who are in the right place at the right time. […] It was tremendous in the rubble, it was a gigantic playground. Then comes a minor shock: Was it really that long ago? Has Berlin really changed so much, or is it just a dream? […] How long did it last? Nobody can say now. It gradually drew to a close and then it was over. So it’s great to have these photographs. They are proof: the wish-fulfilment zone really did exist.” (David Wagner)
“It was an incredibly free and creative life. There was so much space, so much room, so few limitations imposed upon us from outside, and we could use everything that surrounded us. That made is possible for us to experiment to an incredible extent.” (Uta Rügner)
“We were in a real of possibilities where dreams could come true. Each day was a fresh adventure. We were possessed by the collective urge to create something new. We encouraged, inspired, and challenged each other. For a brief and precious moment, different rules applied.” (Jochen Sandig)
“The clearing of Mainzer Straβe had a sobering and disenchanting effect on many, mainly because it posed such a danged to life and limb. It was clear that things had suddenly turned serious. An entire residential street had been cleared, cutting a huge gash through the movement both physically and symbolically. The upshot was that many residential projects took immediate steps to sign residency agreements.” (Uta Rügner)
“There is a quotation – I believe it actually refers to the Spanish Civil War – to the effect that anyone who stares hope in the face can never subsequently forget it. That person will search the entire world for more traces until they die. This applied exactly to the feeling I had back then. It changes how you think, it changes how you see the world. This is something it shares with great art. If you experience truly great art, your life is transformed forever. Those times had a similar effect. There was no going back to the everyday life. It was like a LSD trip that flips your consciousness upside down.” (Brad Hwand)
“You could have filmed post-war movies in any of those streets. All those ruined façades with their bullet holes – you immediately felt you’d been catapulted back several decades. It had its own special charm.” (Cem Ergün-Müller)
“We discovered places and gave them a soul with our creative work. We had everything – apart from money. Nobody had any of that. But we had ideas. We had dreams.” (Jochen Sandig)
“Every city needs something similar – free creative space that gives people the chance to discover themselves and their talents.” (Stefan Schilling)
The book release is accompanied by a photography exhibition, on display between October 16 and November 22, 1914, Monday through Saturday 12-6pm, at the Gestalten Space in the Sophie-Gips-Höfe (Sophienstraße 21, 10178 Berlin).