In the Spring of 2014 I embarked on a series of cycle wanders outside Berlin.
On one of the first trips along the Berliner Mauerweg in Sacrow near Potsdam, I came across a Memorial to a former East Berliner named Rainer Liebeke, who drowned when trying to flee from the East and whose body was found a week later by two schoolchildren in the Sacrower lake.
It was his story that stayed with me and it is this that drew me to many other poignant landscapes in the former East and West, that recalled that initial encounter.
At least 141 people were killed along the Berlin Wall or lost their lives as a direct result of the border regime between 1961 and 1989. The wall created 28 years of division and November 9th, 2019 marks the 30 year anniversary of the fall of the wall.
In the bookwork the viewer is taken on a visual journey using landscape as a metaphor in order to create a feeling of remembrance for the victims of the Berlin Wall and to reflect on the dreadful circumstances under which they died.
The book is going to be published this Autumn by Kehrer Verlag, a well known German publishing house and your kind support will help make this happen.
‘For the past five years, photographer Ethna O'Regan has been meticulously documenting the path that now replaces the old Berlin Wall. She has found the strange, the uneasy, and the uncanny in places you or I wouldn't pay any heed to. Sometimes serene, sometimes beautiful and always painfully lonely, the landscapes she captures seem to have the political past embedded in them. In that time, people had their freedom of movement hugely curtailed and became desperate to escape their wire-tapped lives.
Ethna has that intuitive sixth sense only some are lucky enough to have; she has been able to find psychological traces of those attempted escapes, shootings and drownings that took place in the open meadows, placid lakesides and deep green forests.
It is a hard won body of work, its 'quiet' landscapes belying the political boundary wall that was built, and the schism that followed when neighbours and families and communities were unceremoniously split and forced to live under two opposing ideologies.
"Beyond Reach" is a document of the aftermath, a testament to the fact that the land doesn't forget, and nor should we. Please support the publishing of this book, it is more relevant than ever right now.’
Dr. Miriam de Búrca, Artist and Lecturer
The photographic book is based on the project I began some years ago of exploring the border wall that surrounded West-Berlin, turning it into a virtual island within the GDR. It was an intricate border system, of concrete wall slabs, mainly within the city, metal fences, barbed wire, a death strip from between twenty to seventy meters’ width surveilled by 302 watchtowers, a battery of lanterns on high masts, alarm signals, 1150 watchdogs and roughly 2000 guards doing duty daily. It was an almost impenetrable barrier.
Today there are very few remnants of either the wall, the barbed wire or the watch towers, and what is left of the wall has become a tourist attraction. If one now embarks on a journey on foot or by bike along the 91 mile-long so-called Mauerweg (the wall trail) along the former border between West Berlin and Brandenburg, one is struck by the abundance of lush growth and woodland around the circumference of the city. This is due to the current policy of letting nature take over where the death strip used to be.
But as I travelled along the trail I now and again came across memorials to people – often male, often young – who lost their lives trying to cross the border from East to West. The poignancy of these reminders of a now almost forgotten past motivated me to explore further and let my photographic record of the landscape in all its innocence tell the story. It is with awe and sadness that I went along the Mauerweg and I wish to dedicate this book to the memory of the victims of a painful history.
The book will consist of up to forty colour images (analogue and digital) with a number of black and white archival portraits of the victims interspersed throughout. Their stories will be available to read in the appendix of the book. In order to be able to use these images I was kindly granted permission by the families of the victims.
The work was presented at the Hamburg Triennial in June where Alexa Becker of Kehrer Verlag, after seeing it, decided to offer to publish it to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the wall. The book will be designed by Ania Nalecka-Milach from Tapir Book design and everything is in place for publication by October 2019.
Your contribution to the funding of this publication will be immensely appreciated.
Ethna O’Regan (1971, Galway) studied photography at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and received a BA Hons Degree, 2007. She had her first solo exhibition in the m3 Kunsthalle, Berlin in 2009 and also showed at the Goethe Institute, Dublin as part of ‘New Irish Works’ in the PhotoIreland Festival, 2013.
She has produced photographic series in Ireland, America, Germany and the Ukraine and has exhibited them internationally. Her work has been selected for several group shows in Ireland and the UK, the most recent being the Salon Art Prize in the MRA Project Space, London, Future Perfect, in The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, Dadapost Gallery, Berlin.
O’Regan was also nominated for the Berlin Art Prize, 2014, EI Award Braga 2015, Shortlist Athens Photo festival, 2015, 2016 and Shortlist Eva International, Ireland, 2016.
Her work ranges from the personal to the social and political, identifying moments where these states coincide.
Risks and challenges
My goal is to raise 9,000 euro but the final book will cost between 13,000- 15,000 euro depending on papers /design of book which is yet to be determined.
With your support I will be able to publish this book and your help will be acknowledged with my gratitude in the final pages.
I will keep my backers updated as the process moves along. Over the next 3 months I will be taking more photographs and the editing process will begin. The book will be designed in the summer and going to print in September in time for the 30 year anniversary of the fall of the wall.
With your kindness, I am confidently hopeful that the book Beyond Reach will come to fruition!
- (30 days)