Face2Face, a photo taken by Alexandra Novosseloff in Bethlehem.
courtesy Alexandra Novosseloff

World of dividing walls

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The divisions in society is a topic explored by French political scientists and photographers Alexandra Novosseloff and Frank Neisse in their exhibit Walls Between People.

An opening ceremony for the exhibit was held at the Founders’ Gallery in the Military Museums of Calgary on Feb. 8. The exhibit will be displayed at the University of Calgary’s Founders’ Gallery until April 14.

Walls Between People explores eight different physical barriers around the world and how people live with them. The exhibit also explores the use of graffiti and other forms of expression on these walls.

The dividing lines that are explored include the Westbank, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Mexico and the United States and the Green Line in Cyprus.

The project began in the summer of 2005 when Niesse and Novosseloff, who conduct research at the University of Paris, traveled the world to explore the contrast between freedom and dividing lines.

“We really wanted to show the reality of the barriers we put around ourselves,” said Novosseloff in a phone interview from New York City.

The researchers initially wrote a book on their findings entitled Walls Between Peoples. In 2008, the International Red Cross Museum in Geneva, Switzerland organized a photo exhibition that has since been showcased worldwide. Their work is also affiliated with the United Nations, the University of Montreal and various peacekeeping organizations.

“The biggest goal was to show the reality of this new phenomenon at the end of the Cold War. At that time, everybody thought that the world was so open,” said Novosseloff. “When you look closer at the world, you find that there are many places where people are fencing themselves in. And we thought it would be an interesting paradox to show and research the tension between globalization and fragmentation.”

According to curator of art at the Founders’ Gallery Lindsey V. Sharman, the walls tell an important story.

“When a wall is put up between two different populations, that’s indicative of complex and sensitive situations,” said Sharman.

She said that exploring these conflicted areas is important to understanding the world.

“Our goal here with the gallery is to look at issues of conflict — contemporary as well as historical — and to disseminate education and knowledge,” said Sharman. “Oftentimes, we may be a bit removed from a lot of these situations and I think that the walls are representing complex situations all over the world that are not well understood.”

Neisse and Novosseloff are constantly traveling to these sites to update their work.

Novosseloff said she is happy that the exhibit could be displayed in the U of C’s Founders’ Gallery. She hopes that more people learn about these conflict zones and dividing lines.

The Founders’ Gallery is a sister gallery to the Nickle Arts Galleries and is administered by the U of C.