Artist Ian Cale gets up close and personal with Berlin’s forgotten buildings and their role in history….
Growing up in the 1970s, I was – like many others – saturated by the media with images of World War Two and the Cold War, in which the depiction of conflict was often trivialised and turned into the stuff of children’s toys.
I developed a distorted view of conflict, and even public service announcements on TV explaining how to survive a nuclear attack became embedded into childhood games using cushions and blankets to build a shelter. It’s not surprising therefore that on my first visit to Berlin in 2001 I was shocked and disturbed to find how raw and commonplace the true impact of conflict and occupation was within the city.
Since starting this project, Berlin and Eastern Germany has changed beyond recognition. With every visit there are huge changes to the urban landscape, with previously investigated spaces knocked down, boarded up or gentrified. The aim, therefore, is to record the redevelopment and flux. This involves searching out abandoned places such as hospitals, military barracks, deserted apartment blocks, air raid shelters and factories. Documenting these neglected sites, photographing their damaged and aged facades, decaying surfaces and the traces of peoples lives.
Many of these sites are remote and seemingly inaccessible, but it is within these locations that discarded clothes and military equipment and personal affects remain; interiors that look like the occupants have just got up and left; the ephemera of life laying undisturbed such as the photograph of a loved one still stuck to the wall, a scrap of wallpaper or an un-posted letter on a shelf.
My personal photographic archive of social and political trauma is supported through large scale observational drawing, printmaking and the collection and documentation of found objects. And on returning to the UK, painting.
You can see more of Ian’s project as well as his drawings and paintings on his website.