GHDI logo

The Writer Monika Maron Comments on the Popularity of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Reichstag (July 3, 1995)

page 2 of 3    print version    return to list previous document      next document

Berlin suddenly has a market square, says M. It reminds me of a shroud, says C. As though a UFO has landed, says K. A gigantic plaything, I say. Everyone can find what he’s looking for and can forget what newspapers and television have drilled into him for weeks in preparation for the coming artistic delight. Only my friend, the painter Nikolai Makarov, says nothing. He’s probably wondering why one person is allowed to make an entire parliament building disappear under fabric, while thus far he has been allowed to install his marvelous Venetian-red Makarov room only in the Kröchlendorfer Schloß, even though room for it could be found in any row house, provided that artistically inclined people lived there.

Christo’s richly symbolic move was subject to a lot of interpretation as long as it remained only an idea, which was pointless in so far as one meaning could be as easily imputed to it as another. Whether the Reichstag would be elevated or diminished by the wrapping, whether it would finally disappear, at least temporarily, or in fact become actually visible, was left to the fancy of whoever was doing the talking. That the wrapped Reichstag, once it existed, would itself create meaning was probably least expected.

There it stands in its strange costume, awaiting the ideas of those who look at it, a colossal A that challenges the rest of the alphabet. Some sing, others drum, still others juggle, some kiss, most take pictures. At night you can have the floodlights project you as a giant shadow against the portal, and if you climb onto someone’s shoulders, you can easily climb over the roof.

On Sunday, it was announced via radio that hordes of night-time visitors had broken through the barriers in front of the west façade in the early morning hours, and that this had left security personnel fearing the worst. But this storm on the Reichstag had been triggered merely by uncontrollable curiosity. They wanted to touch it, says one member of the security staff. The urge to touch it, just like children want to touch and feel an animal or something unknown, evidently overpowers everyone, including me.

The good mood spread by the thing comes from sheer high spirits. Someone remained faithful to a crazy idea for twenty-four years so that in the end he could put this beautiful and sparkling absurdity on a field for us. If that’s possible, a lot of other things must be possible, too.

It would seem that Berlin was eagerly awaiting this message of levity. The city – whose long since eliminated subsidies are still the envy of sheltered suburbanites in the rest of the Republic, who also charged the city with lachrymosity, without having a clue of how people lived outside of their own well-ordered world – is taxed by the obligations of unification like none other. Not only is the PDS headquartered in Berlin but also the Russian and Asian mafias. Whatever is coming from the East gets washed up here, and not much good can be detected among it at this time. Berlin is in the process of losing the rest of its already debated charm.

first page < previous   |   next > last page