"Disappearing Wall" - an Interactive Installation on the Freedom Square in Poznań

September 11, 2020 | Anna Zielazny

The interactive installation called "Disappearing Wall" was located on the Plac Wolności (Freedom Square) in Poznań, Poland. It was presented to the public on the 24th of August and remained there until the 27th of August.

This installation has already appeared in other countries in the European Union, but Poznań was the first Polish city to host it. The idea to create this "disappearing wall" was born in the Goethe Institute.

The wall, situated on one of the most significant places in Poznań, was built with a wooden frame and the "bricks" were also made of wood. It was five metres wide and two metrestall. Six thousandbricks had quotes by famous writers, politicians, musicians and so on. All of them are words that people from all over Europe sent to the Goethe Institute to create this installation. The quotes are in three languages: original, Polish, and German. 

People who appeared in the square were allowed to pick a brick and take it with them home.

In Poznań, it took less than one day to make the wall disappear completely. Just the frame remained, with a see-through window, where the bricks were situated.

The wall wasn't separating anything. It was easy to pass by, and it wasn't very high. That points to the artificiality of the divisions of society, fake borders that divide not only nations but also social groups, families, or individuals. Those borders can be removed with the work of all people.

This installation can be interpreted as a metaphor of a collective effort to remove borders, break down walls. Instead of building the wall, people in a collective effort can remove bricks. They learn about the cultures of othersin the same way. A favourite line from a John Lennon song, a verse from a Goethe book, or a quote from a Virginia Woolf novel - they are not only uplifting words but also symbols of other cultures that we can learn from. A quote from Greta Thunberg also found a place on one of the bricks, reminding us that climate changes require collective actions.

The place this installation was situated is meaningful. Freedom Square is a symbolical place for the Polish fight for freedom from 1918. Here, the people of Poznańalso celebrated after World War II was over. Nowadays it is a place of meetings, Christmas fairs, concerts, but people also gatherhere to protest against the abuse of power and social injustices, in Poland and other countries.

As the installation was founded by the German Goethe Institute, the association with the Berlin Wall is obvious. The wall that for years was separating East and West was removed with the effort of individuals, over social and economic division, brick after brick.


However, in the Polish context, it created another meaning. It is also associated with the song "Walls" that became an anthem of the Polish movement "Solidarność" and is a hymn of the end of communism in Poland.

The wall disappeared very fast. It is a demonstration of disappearing borders between nations, but also between societies. Nowadays, as Poland is divided by complicated political situations, intolerance and LGBT+-phobia, this installation seems to be a significant lesson.

It is not a critical comment for the situation, but rather hopeful proof that tells us there is still a chance for a united society, that can see above divisions, that can raise above traditional narration and deconstruct it, returning a space of freedom to public places.

Nowadays the song "Walls" is sung by Belarusians during their fight for independence. It reminds us all that walls are often invisible, created as a cultural, social or economic construct and it is only with our powerthat we can remove them, brick by brick.

The presence of a frame after removing the bricks from the wall is also worth considering. It can be interpreted as a lasting possibility for a wall to appear in a public space again. It's a visual reminder that freedom is not given (or won) once and forever. Social alertness, consciousness about a current event and constant verifying of the social position of ourselves, but also others are crucial to not miss alarming signals. Freedom is a fluid state, and keeping it requires a never-ending effort by all of us.

This installation shows how important the collectiveis.It can build and break. And the walls that we are all creating don't have to be border walls, or the walls that "protect us" from the Other. The process of building can be used to build houses on ruins, to create a solid society, that has a lot in common, with many cultural differences.

 Pictures: Joanna Kasprowicz

I'm a polish art historian, specialized in Eastern European art. Currently, I am living in Porto, Portugal. I am a creative writer and the author of SlowMotionTravels blog.

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