What do Cyprus, India and Pakistan, Northern Ireland, Israel and Palestine, the Spanish Enclaves, the U.S. and Mexico, the Western Sahara, and the two Koreas have in common?
More specifically, modern, man-made walls — barriers of cultural, economic or religious differences that divide populations and represent ongoing conflict.
The Founders’ Gallery’s latest exhibition, Walls Between People, showcases the photography of Alexandra Novosseloff and Frank Neisse, who have travelled the world documenting these modern barriers, some of which viewers may not have heard of before.
“I think that a lot of these conflicts... either people don’t know anything about or they know very little about,” says Lindsey Sharman, The Founders’ Gallery’s curator. “What we want to do with this exhibition is to provide a little bit more information on all of these different conflicts.”
In a show like this — premised on capturing physical structures through an artistic lens — the gallery space itself becomes an integral part of the exhibition. Two of the outer walls are sectioned into the eight locations represented in the show, with information about the people affected and a few other salient details about each wall. The interior walls are high and corridor-like, a bit of a proto-labyrinth. After exploring at ground level, you also get the chance to climb a tower structure — set up specifically to offer a different perspective — and peer over this particular set of man-made walls.
Intermittently, you’ll also hear an eerie ringing soundtrack that emerges and fades. This is the work of Glenn Weyant, an American who makes sound art by using the fence between the U.S. and Mexico as an instrument, “playing” it with various found objects.
Another obvious feature of the gallery walls is that they’re decorated with murals by Tod Massie.
“When I was going through all of the photos, one of the things that I was taken by was that all of these people in all of these places are compelled to decorate or embellish these walls in some way,” explains Sharman. “In some way they become focal points or platforms for social and political activism, and they’re also very telling of up-to-the-moment sentiments of people who are really living most closely with them.”
You’ll see other themes running throughout the exhibition. But, at the same time, the spectrum of walls is fairly wide, from impenetrable divisions like the border between North and South Korea, to less categorical lines that have now been accepted into daily life in places like Cyprus or Northern Ireland.
“Whereas the walls are the unifying feature of all of these places, it becomes difficult to blanket them all,” says Sharman. She adds, referring to the less stringent barriers, that “it becomes [about] the perceived differences. Even though physically, you’re definitely able to cross, perhaps you don’t feel as though you’re able to cross, you feel that disconnect internally... and then the wall between the two sides becomes internal rather than external.”
Which leads, perhaps, to one of the main points of this exhibition.
“These walls are very real, and not only that, but they do exist in every community,” says Sharman. “There are these physical walls in these different places, but what sort of walls are set up in Canada or in Alberta or in Calgary that are stopping us from experiencing everything that we could?”