Irish Artists Are Withdrawing From an Exhibition in Berlin, Here’s Why

Image: Kate Nolan, LACUNA

Words: Izzy Copestake

Photo Museum Ireland, IKS Düsseldorf and Haus am Kleistpark’s exhibition in Berlin is titled Changing States: Ireland in the 21st Century. As the title suggests, this exhibition is set to be highly political. Openly documenting themes of “Political Landscapes”, “Notions of Home” and “Changing Identities”, it’s set to be the largest group exhibition of Irish photography presented outside Ireland to date.

However, at least 11 artists haven now chosen to withdraw. Ireland has recently recognised Palestinian statehood, and is widely considered the most pro-Palestine country in Europe. These artists feel that as this is exhibition about Ireland, with explicitly political themes (some of which being colonial occupation), there work should not be shown in Germany. Diplomatically, Germany is one of Israel’s closest allies in Europe. The phrase “from the river to the sea” has been banned there since November 2023, with violators facing jail time. In early 2024, the German government cancelled a stream of cultural events that show solidarity with Palestine and Berlin implemented a funding clause which would not allow those critical of Israel to receive financial support from the city.

We’ve seen reports of German police using violence to suppress pro-Palestinian protests in the country.

So why is Photo Museum Ireland’s exhibition taking place in Berlin? Well, this is part of the Irish and German government’s Zeitgeist Irland 24 programme, which is government funded and aims to bring “a new generation of Irish artists to German audiences”. Earlier this year CTM festival platformed a number of Irish DJs under the same funding programme, and artists such as Jyoty and Manuka Honey pulled out in solidarity with Strike Germany: the organisation calling on artists and international cultural workers to strike German cultural institutions, due to the suppression of voices in solidarity with Palestine.

This is”an act of full solidarity with all those experiencing this violent and brutal repression within Germany and centrally, those suffering the continuing horrific attacks in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank.”

Collective statement from artists withdrawing from the exhibition