Born in 1962 in West Germany, artist Doerte Weber grew up in a time when her country was divided by a wall. From 1979-1983 she attended university in West Germany and on the weekends visited her boyfriend who lived in East Berlin. The UK governed West Germany at that time, so national pride and propaganda were not allowed, and the West Germans had very little interaction with the military. Each time Weber crossed the border, she was overcome with emotion when she confronted the formidable wall erected inside one country, complete with barbed wire and armed guards.
Weber is replete with stories of her fractured country—the fear that acquaintances were spies and the terror that arose when experiencing something as mundane as car trouble in the wrong region. After moving to McAllen, Texas she again experienced first-hand the problems associated with division by way of a wall. In contrast to the Berlin Wall, the walls she references in Texas are not as scary. They have nature peeking through them. In her work Check Point at Artpace, Weber honors this illusion.
During her residency at the Horlock House in Navasota, TX, Weber released her fears, fury, and frustration by weaving newspaper bags on a traditional loom into seven panels that measure 20 feet wide and 17 feet high, emulating the Texas-Mexico border wall. To create this work, Weber collected over 7,000 newspaper bags from the community. “When they [community members] touch it, it is like memories get evoked and need to be shared. You are part of the project and you are important” says Weber.
As Weber weaves, she selects sleeves from The New York Times (blue) and the San Antonio Express-News (yellow). With these two colors, she delicately creates a pattern reminiscent of traditional Mexican blankets. The repetition was both therapeutic and painful for Weber as she wove her parallel experiences into her own wall. She explains the necessity of the plastic bags as materials because “even the news is flawed,” recalling the days of false propaganda created by Hitler and the Third Reich.
For the wooden posts, Weber used cotton, a strong American fiber. Cotton has created so many useful American branded items, but it has also been at the root of the worst racism and division in US history. For Weber, this is the exact dichotomy she wishes to expose. Generations must begin to understand that some things we break we cannot repair. The installation towers over you, yet it still maintains its beauty and transparency. Perhaps she offers a window of hope—that we can learn from the mistakes of Germany.