University of Calgary

Walls Between People

UToday HomeJanuary 16, 2013

"Face2Face”: Graffiti on the wall in Bethlehem Photo credit: Alexandra Novosseloff"Face2Face”: Graffiti on the wall in Bethlehem Photo credit: Alexandra NovosseloffThe Berlin Wall is the best-known barrier wall of the modern era. Artists have used the wall as a platform upon which to communicate messages of frustration and hope. Portions of the wall still stand in Berlin, and it now functions as an open-air graffiti gallery. The current painting of this wall represents an attempt to conserve it as an important historical artifact — a platform for artistic expression as well as a reminder of the divisions it represented and enforced.

Walls Between People is a photography exhibition by Alexandra Novosseloff and Frank Neisse presenting eight different barrier walls. Exposing the contradictions found in an open and globalized world, the exhibits display the use of graffiti on contemporary barriers in — and between — several countries. Lindsey V. Sharman, curator of the exhibition, which opened on Jan. 14 in The Founders’ Gallery at The Military Museums, will discuss the use of graffiti in these areas of conflict which are among the most complex in the world.

“There is something that compels human beings to decorate and embellish these symbols of withdrawal,” observes Sharman, who earned her master’s degree in curating from the University of the Arts, Zurich. “This may stem from a desire to subvert their power, or perhaps it is a more primal urge to beautify one’s surroundings.”

Whatever the drive behind it, the walls are often transformed into message boards and hubs of political and social activism. Ironically, when used in this way the walls offer the opportunity for even the smallest voices to be heard. The walls themselves are often physical manifestations of what is inscribed on them and the messages reveal the sentiments of those most affected. The embellishments also mark the passage of time and can directly represent up-to-the-moment passions. The decorations age, are augmented, are edited, and inspire replies of both encouragement and opposition.

Libraries and Cultural Resources’ popular The Nickle at Noon series resumes for winter 2013 with Sharman’s expertise and insights on this fascinating topic ― Walls Between People ― on Jan. 17 at noon.

The Nickle at Noon are free lunchtime presentations on arts and culture held in the Taylor Family Digital Library’s Gallery Hall every Thursday during the term.