A Gigantic Plaything
The Berlin writer Monika Maron on life with Christo’s wrapped Reichstag
In 1984, when Michael S. Cullen, Christo’s deputy in Berlin (of course he was also Jean-Claude’s deputy, but nobody talked about it back then), first told me about Christo’s plans to wrap the Reichstag, I couldn’t – if memory serves me right – find anything odd about it. The absurdity of the Berlin Wall could not be surpassed, only added to, and wrapping an empty parliament building standing in its shadow with sheets of fabric struck me as perfectly logical.
In 1994, when wrapping or not-wrapping the Reichstag had swelled into a question of national identity, one requiring a Bundestag decision, it seemed ridiculous to me that after [wrapping] the Pont Neuf, the Australian coast, and a few islands in the Atlantic, he would now wrap the small Reichstag as well.
When the time had finally come, I found myself more in the skeptics’ camp, also because the tone of the discussion – either for Christo or nationalist and philistine – had pushed me there.
Here I am writing as a convert. It’s beautiful, it’s fun; ever since Christo wrapped the Reichstag, Berlin has been a different city. It needed that.
And it doesn’t matter whether the Reichstag is beautiful or ugly, whether it has this or that kind of history, whether or not it’s being alienated. If you want to alienate something in downtown Berlin these days, it’s best to leave it the way it is. Christo has wrapped the Reichstag, and his message is: Come one, come all.