Peter McCarthy (Sydney)

The Wall at once became the leitmotif of a marginalist disposition in Western Europe and a breath of life into the progressive de-Stalinization of cultural production in Eastern Europe. Culture was being produced—conveniently on both political sides—at the margin evinced now by each side, as the symptom of a confounding contradiction between an existential homeland and the margins of that very homeland. The post-Stalinist era in Eastern Europe was already bringing a degree of artistic freedom as new—if largely formalist—developments in creative media were expanding the Weltanshauung of the Eastern Bloc and certain cultural quarters of the West were looking on with more than a little interest.

So, twenty years later, the Wall finally comes down, the structure that defined a generation apparently no more. But this question remains: was the Wall ever anything other than symptom? Doubtless it was—its concrete construction and reasoning were palpable, its real impact on the lives of the people in its shadow evident. But as symptom, the Wall was also more—a pathetic compromise between the repressed ideas and the repressing ones (Freud). It is in its nature that the symptom and its host subject do not coincide, they just don’t get along, or at least that’s what their various representations will have us believe. This formation was at the core of the fantastic marginalist projection, the fact the Wall sponsored a sort of playfulness and abandon for the West and at the same time represented a kind of troubling tool for artists in the East. It allows us the perverted luxury of suffering it, resisting its interpretation, its cure. It is no coincidence when the Wall came down, the symptom remained.