Projects being exhibited at the Berlin Biennale, on view through July
12, address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict • Biennale official
tells Al Arabiya the Palestinian key is meant to be a symbol of
nonviolent resistance • Israeli artist Yael Bartana and Israeli
collective Public Movement also participating.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and some of its most pressing core
issues, including the so-called "right of return" for Palestinian
refugees, are among the weighty subjects that viewers can look
forward to at the 7th Berlin Biennale. So weighty, in fact, that one
of the pieces on view at the exhibition – a one-ton, nine-meter-long
Palestinian "key of return" – was dismounted from its home at a
Bethlehem refugee camp in March and flown across thousands of miles
to be installed in Germany.
The piece called "Key of Return" was crafted in 2008 by residents of
the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, who claim it is the largest key
in the world. Its creators are working to have the key recognized by
the Guinness Book of World Records.
According to the Berlin Biennale´s website, the enormous steel key,
which was mounted at the entrance to refugee camp, is a "critical
manifestation of nonviolent expression and a means of overcoming
Palestinian refugees who left or were forced out of their homes in
what is present-day Israel took their keys with them, believing they
would return. However, 60 years later the fate of those refugees and
their families have become one of the hot-button issues between
Israelis and Palestinians. "The keys have been passed on from
generation to generation as a keepsake — as a memory of their lost
homes and as lasting symbols of their desired ´right of return,´" the
biennale website says.
Palestinians insist they have the right to return to their homes,
while Israel views such a mass return as the end of the Jewish state.
Currently, the U.N. agency that deals with Palestinian refugees
numbers them at around 5 million (that figure includes refugees who
fled and their children and grandchildren).
Joanna Farsha, assistant secretary-general of Berlin Biennale, told
Al Arabiya that the key is meant to be viewed as a symbol of peaceful
“This key stands for non-violent struggle and its presence here is a
constructive initiative to tackle the issue of refugee camps in the
West Bank,” she told Al Arabiya. “That is why we decided that instead
of hosting an artist to tell us its story, we would move the key to
Germany and invite the entire society in order to take part in the
controversy about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
The key is among some 30 projects being exhibited at the Berlin
Biennale through July 12. "State of Palestine," another project by
Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar imagines what a passport stamp and
postage stamp for a Palestinian state would look like.
Jarrar has stamped the passports of about 240 travelers in Ramallah,
Berlin and Paris with the "State of Palestine" impression since 2011.
Israeli artist Yael Bartana is also participating in the Berlin
Biennale with her piece "And Europe Will be Stunned," which brings
together delegates from the first congress of what the artist calls
the Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland (JRMiP).
In 2007, Bartana launched her movement, which aims to increase the
Jewish presence in Europe. "The Jews of today are not the same people
who were expelled from Europe — the Europeans of today are not the
ones responsible for the ethnic cleansing," the biennale´s website
says in describing Bartana´s work. "This may be the appropriate time
to unite again — and change Europe and Israel for the better."
Israeli performance and research group Public Movement is also taking
part in the biennale, with a campaign that aims to re-brand Europe´s