Khaled Barakeh is a conceptual artist and cultural activist. He graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus in 2005 and received his MFA from Funen Art Academy in Odense, Denmark, in 2010. In 2013, he completed a Meisterschuler study at the Städelschule Art Academy in Frankfurt a.M., Germany.
Khaled Barakeh’s practice is based on reframing moments of dissonance, and often outright injustice, in political, and social structures. Although he employs a wide range of artistic strategies, this is often achieved through deft manipulation of immediately recognizable and found objects, and preexisting imagery. In recent years, his projects have delved into the media’s portrayal of victims of conflict, once cohesive communities divided by political strife, and the dynamics of integration for refugees. Barakeh sees art as an opportunity for these moments to be understood, and felt, by a broader audience; not just the individuals which experience their acute effects.
Originally trained as a painter, Barakeh’s move from Syria to Denmark in 2008, and the course of his studies there, spurred a transition into his current conceptual approach. In 2010, His solo exhibition, Isomerization, at Kunsthallen Brandts reflected on the complex dynamics of immigration and integration within Danish society, as well as his own experience as a foreign artist. Each day during the course of the exhibition, 200 falafel sandwiches were prepared and wrapped in paper printed with the portraits of immigrants residing in the Vollsmose neighborhood. As the community cycled through the exhibition and the sandwiches were consumed, the residents of Odense were allowed a novel, face-to-face perspective on their engagement with the local immigrant community.
In 2017, Studio Khaled Barakeh was established in Berlin. The studio’s activity and engagement are driven by what Barakeh has termed 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 same mechanisms as political infrastructure itself. This led Barakeh to found CoCulture e.V. alongside his artistic practice. A nonprofit organization which contains a suite of initiatives including SYRIA Cultural Index, the Syrian Biennale, and Support the Supporters, coculture is focussed on addressing the many challenges faced by displaced cultural producers in the Middle East, Europe, and beyond.
Alongside his studio activity, since 2018, Barakeh has facilitated an ongoing series of workshops with the Berlin Career College at the Universität der Künste Berlin. Aimed at supporting artists in exile, these workshops provide professional practice skills critical to success in the Berlin scene.
In 2020, Barakeh unveiled his project MUTE. Spring and Summer of that year saw mass social restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which coincided with the first international trial for war crimes committed by members of the Syrian regime. Those who would have attended the case and demonstrated in support of this shift in accountability for the regime were prevented by travel restrictions and bans on social gathering. Designed to circumnavigate these regulations, MUTE is a collection of about 50 inanimate figures. Dressed in the donated personal clothing of artists and activists from across the Syrian diaspora, this silent demonstration stood in observance of the trial proceedings in front of the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany on the 1st of July, 2020.
In addition to the projects mentioned above, Barakeh has exhibited at Künstlerhaus Stuttgart, The 11th Shanghai Biennale, Salt Istanbul, The Frankfurter Kunstverein, Artspace New Zealand, The Busan Biennale, The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, and many other international venues and instituations.
Khaled Barakeh lives and works in Berlin, Germany.