Visual Nostalgia at the Prayer Wall
Looking at and across the Iron Curtain was its visitors’ foremost goal. What characterized the visual economy of the Cold War borderlands? To answer this question, this chapter reinterprets nostalgia, an important driving force behind the construction of the “prayer wall,” as a visual phenomenon. More complex than the controlling gaze, at the Czechoslovak-West German border nostalgic vision was bifocal, pivoting on a disconnect between the act of looking and its outcome. Through border-themed poetry and snapshots of observing subjects, the chapter explores the nomenclature that Sudeten Germans developed to account for this split. The lay taxonomy of nostalgic vision, goes the argument, determined the architecture of new lookout towers—the most significant additions to the “prayer wall.” The chapter closes with an analysis of two such sites.
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