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8,000 Illuminated Balloons Released for the Fall of the Berlin Wall's 25th Anniversary

For the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the city will experience a spectacle of light and memory.

by Johannes Hausen
Oct 15 2014, 8:00pm

This article originally appeared on The Creators Project Germany.

Images: Daniel Büche

At "Checkpoint Charlie," you won't get very far. For those who are driving from Berlin towards Kreuzberg on the second weekend of November, the infamous Cold War-era border crossing will be blocked by an 11-foot-high wall of illuminated balloons.

From November 7 to 9, about 8,000 of the 24 inch white balls will surround the city, marking Lichtgrenze (Border of Light), a nearly 10-mile installation that stretches the original pathway between Oberbaumbruecke and Bornholm Road of the Berlin Wall. For two days and two nights, Berlin will again be divided into East and West.

The installation was created by light artist and designer Christopher Bauder, who normally develops kinetic LED installations with his company WHITEvoid, and his brother, filmmaker Marc Bauder. Back in 1998, the brothers shot the documentary Keine Verlorene Zeit (No Lost Time), about the fates of four young German Democratic Republicans who were targeted by the Stasi at the end of the 1970s. Two of these oppositionists gave birth to Marc's wife, director Dorte Franke, after spending two years in a Stasi prison before they were ransomed by West Germany. 

Marc Bauder has spent a total of 120 hours working through 25 years of historical footage of the Wall. On 30-foot-tall video screens situated on six key locations along the trail, he plans to show cinematic collages that juxtapose divided Berlin with the city we know today. Every 500 feet across the Lichtgrenze, visitors will also find a total of 100 personal anecdotes and stories of the Wall, forming a collective landscape of memories of Berlin. 

Emotional strength will be given to the Lichtgrenze by the thousands of balloon patrons who, on November 9 at 7 pm—the anniversary of the fall of the Wall—will attach personal messages to the balloons and then disconnect them, allowing the helium-filled orbs to streak into the Berlin night sky. LEDs integrated into the stands, which require a total of 60,000 batteries, will illuminate the balloons while they take off on their estimated 12 hour journey: the natural, biodegradable material that composes them is able to hold in helium much longer than regular balloon rubber.

In order to preserve an environmentally-friendly character for the event, the Bauders asked researchers at the University of Hannover to also produce biodegradable the closures for the balloons. The resulting materials will be decomposed by natural environmental factors including sunlight, oxygen, and bacteria. 

If you missed the application period to become a balloon patron, there's still the chance to virtually send your message via the Fall of the Wall 25 platform.

For more information, check out the Lichtgrenze community and event page on Facebook.


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