A new Eastern Europe arose after 1989. The Iron Curtain disappeared, the street scene changed unrecognizably. Some countries disintegrated, a majority have become members of the European Union. After four decades of Communism, capitalism is the new ideology. Individualism has replaced collectivism, opposition politics is again permitted. The heroic worker has had to become a critical consumer.
As a mirror held up to Behind Walls, a second exhibition, Beyond Walls, provides a picture of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Left opposes right, nostalgia for the old days faces off against the blessings of capitalism. Among the remains of the Communist era – from the gray architecture to the discrimination against ethnic groups – a frantic search for a new identity is going on.
These changes also leave their mark on photography. What was previously forbidden ground – literally, in the case of once heavily guarded border areas – or new phenomena such as a beauty contest in Poland or the rise of a Romanian tourist industry, can now be documented. Eastern European outcasts also have a chance to visualize their youth behind the Iron Curtain.
Together with Behind Walls, Beyond Walls forms a full-fledged diptych. In an extraordinary presentation, 35 photographers from East and West visualize the most recent history of Eastern Europe, with work from all the former East Block countries. Beyond Walls tells the intriguing story of a world full of contradictions in which a dynamic present still bears the traces of a charged past.