Amidst a state-subsidized crackdown on Pro-Palestinian voices within Germany’s cultural spheres, activists and artists gathered in front of Maxim Gorki Theater on Thursday 18th January to stage a performance titled “Art is Resistance – Are We Free If We Cannot Speak?”
A beamer confronted Gorki’s visitors with footage of Gaza’s ongoing destruction amid Israeli occupation and the buzzing sound of war drones all around. In front, they watched a die-in unfold, where a group of people lie down as if dead in solidarity with the over 25,000 Palestinians who have been killed by Israel since October. Surrounded by the images of war and death in front of them, the performing artists tried to speak out. However, their voices are violently silenced by the cultural institutions behind them.
This performance comes as a reaction to the Berlin Senate’s recent decision to implement a clause that requires artists applying for public funding to sign a declaration against “any form of antisemitism” as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), according to which “the targeting of the state of Israel” as well as any forms of antizionism are conflated with antisemitism. This McCarthyistic clause serves as a legal basis for the cancelling of those who oppose the right-wing nationalist policies of the Israeli government, particularly those whose art engages with the reality faced by Palestinians. As such, this definition disproportionately and primarily targets migrant, Arab and Jewish artists & intellectuals whose contribution to German art and discourse is vitally important. The IHRA definition in its current form restricts freedom of opinion and art, which is enshrined in Article 5 of the German Grundgesetz (basic law) and has even been criticized by the author of the IHRA.
As voices are being silenced, the activists gathered at Maxim Gorki to offer a thought-provoking foreplay to the premiere of “Die Optimistinnen”. The theatre, which prides itself as a beacon of progress in Berlin’s performance world, decided to single-handedly publish an intellectualized pro-Israel statement in October without consulting the feelings of either their diasporic audience or their ensemble members, and thereby showed us its real face beneath a faux-leftist mask. The activists demand from institutions such as Gorki to stick to their progressive promises and give Palestinian perspectives a stage. The message: Art is resistance. And we are not free under the weight of silence.
See a video pf the action on Instagram.