Khaled Barakeh is a Syrian multidisciplinary artist, activist, and creative facilitator based in Berlin. Trained as a painter at the Fine Arts Faculty in Damascus (2005), Barakeh shifted his focus to conceptual art with his two Master’s degrees at Funen Art Academy in Odense (2010) and Städelschule Art Academy in Frankfurt (2013).
Barakeh’s art transcends traditional craftsmanship, making creative thinking processes his primary tool. His artistic production is not bound by the limitations of materiality, allowing each project to serve as a playground for experimentation. Consequently, each work takes on a different form and format, existing in a dynamic conversation between the real and the fictional, the narrative and the conceptual, and the individual and the collective.
In a strategic move, Barakeh established his Berlin-based Studio Khaled Barakeh in 2017. The studio’s activities are guided by what Barakeh describes as “The Practice of Necessity,” an ethos which dictates responses to the urgencies of an ever-changing political and social landscape. These responses should enact change by operating with the exact mechanisms of the political infrastructure itself. It is a practice driven by the need to address social injustice and give voice to the marginalized rather than one solely dedicated to expression within conventional art venues.
Barakeh’s work challenges traditional views on issues such as human rights violations and structural inequities. His internationally-touring 2020 ‘MUTE’ installation is a prime example, offering a critical intervention on traditional representations of violence. This and other works have been widely exhibited in museums, Biennales, and other prestigious venues, earning him a shortlist position for the 2023 Exile Visual Arts Award. His works are collected worlwide by museums, public art installations and private collections.
In addition to his art, Barakeh collaborates with global organizations like Amnesty International, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Impunity Watch, and the Danish Refugee Council. His projects delve into subjects ranging from media portrayals of conflict victims to the complexities of political identities and identity politics. Far from being a mere mirror of reality, his art aims to transform it.
Since 2018, Barakeh extending his activism into education by facilitating workshops at the Berlin Career College at the Universität der Künste Berlin. Aimed at exiled artists, these workshops provide professional practice skills.
With an eye on broader social impact, Barakeh founded coculture in 2017 as a “social sculpture”. This nonprofit organization stands at the intersection of art, activism, and community building. It aims to empower underrepresented artists, particularly from the global south and with a focus on Syrian talent. Coculture houses several initiatives, including The Index, a mapping and networking platform for Syrian artists, and the Syrian Biennale, a mobile curatorial project that showcases Syrian artists alongside their local and international peers.
Many projects lie ahead, and Barakeh continues to push the boundaries of social and political activism through art. Currently, he is collaborating with a leading cultural organization and several community groups in Northern Ireland to imagine a new utopian political party. This initiative is an extension of his 2013 art project, ‘The Shake,’ which aims to dissipate the enduring polarization between Catholics and Protestants in the region, seeking to bridge deep-rooted divisions and bring about lasting change.