Thirty years after the monumental fall of the Berlin Wall, another wall towered over the center of Germany’s capital this month.
This wall, though, was vibrant and made of thousands of blue and yellow streamers. When the wind blew, it looked like the wall was dancing. It looked like it was celebrating.
That, after all, was the point of the massive and immersive art installation, one of several special projects or events held to mark the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall being torn down.
And Colorado Springs native Patrick Shearn had a big role in the celebration. Shearn, and his Poetic Kinetics art studio, were commissioned to design the 450-foot-long installation, called “Visions in Motion.”
When Shearn, who now lives in Los Angeles, was approached with the idea, he said he knew it would have to be “something big and bright.”
It also would have to be “something to create a spectacle to draw people closer and something powerful to leave them inspired.”
In total, the “floating sculpture” covered a surface of 20,000 square feet and was made with 120,000 colorful and lightweight streamers, which represented the banners carried by demonstrators who peacefully protested the Berlin Wall.
About 40,000 of those ribbons were etched with handwritten messages from the public who jotted down their ideas about walls, love, being human and peace. Messages ranged from “Love is love” to “No more walls ever.”
Shearn wanted to collect those messages as “undeniable evidence that there are masses of people, everyone really, that believe in basic human values of love, peace and hope for a better future together.”
“I feel it is a time to be bold, to throw our voices and colors up for everyone to see so no one needs to feel alone and afraid,” he said.
Shearn spent time in Berlin during the weeklong celebration, calling it an “epic adventure.”
“I am clear that we do not need more walls and borders keeping us isolated,” he said. “We need to come together… to solve the problems we all face.”
The installation purposefully hovered above Brandenburg Gate, the 18th-century monument that stood between the areas that were from 1961 to 1989 considered East and West Germany.
It’s the gate seen behind President Ronald Reagen during his famous 1987 speech, when he spoke the words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
“Visions in Motion” is the latest in Shearn’s series of signature kinetic sculptures, which he calls “skynets.”
He has designed the larger-than-life skynets (some have been so large they have been visible from space) for events such as the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and a Los Angeles Philharmonic concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Growing up in Colorado Springs has informed much of Shearn’s adventurous life, he said.
His parents were both teachers; his father was a professor at Colorado College and his mother taught at Pikes Peak Community College.
When Shearn was young, they built their own house in Black Forest.
Shearn said he learned from his mom and dad “to see the world without boundaries.”
“I always felt I could do anything I set my mind to and to take the risks that entailed,” he said.
“They taught me to say yes to opportunities.”
Since moving away from Colorado, Shearn has been a wilderness guide in Baja and the Grand Canyon, worked on fishing boats in Alaska and made creature animatronics for a “Jurassic Park” movie.
“Colorado Springs, particularly in the time when I was a child, was the perfect place to experience nature, which inspires my art,” he said. “I love coming back to visit.”