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Key Exchange at Birmingham New Street Station, 28 May – 10 July 2022


Access to Sites 28 May – 7 August 2022



About the Project

One to one, one at a time, all of the time, thousands of keys will be bestowed by thousands of people on thousands of citizens for thousands of reasons that deserve to be recognised. Keys to cities are traditionally given by a City Council or Mayor to a hero or dignitary, symbolising that they have the freedom of the city. This new Key to the City belongs to all of us, and is awarded among ourselves. We will give each other the key to our city for private reasons that exist outside of history.

Instead of being acknowledged for sitting in the Houses of Parliament, we are awarding the key for working hard on a school project. Instead of receiving the honour for being a titan of industry, we receive the key for our moves on the dance floor. And with this new key, we gain an opportunity to step back and reflect on common space in the city. For not only does the key open up specific sites, it can also make us aware that the city is a series of spaces that are private or public.

About the Artist

Paul Ramírez Jonas was born in California and raised in Honduras. Since the 1990s, he has sought to challenge the relationship between artist, viewer, and artwork. Many of his projects invite viewer participation and ask participants to contribute something—such as a coin, a wish, a promise, or key—in order to fully engage with his projects. Key to the City is not the first time that Ramírez Jonas has explored the creative possibilities of the key. In Mi Casa Su Casa (2005), he delivered a series of lectures about how space can be defined as either locked or unlocked, before inviting the audience to exchange keys with him and one another. The same year, he created a permanent work of public art, a small park called Taylor Square, for Cambridge, Massachusetts. 5,000 keys to the park’s gate were mailed to the homes closest to the commons, symbolising a shared sense of ownership. Talisman (2008) for the 28th São Paulo Biennial asked visitors to engage in a public agreement, leaving behind a copy of one of their own keys in exchange for a key to the front door of the building that housed the biennial. In 2010, his Key to the City project was first presented by Creative Time in cooperation with the City of New York. Key to the City expands his interest in the key as a vehicle for exploring social contracts as they pertain to trust, access, and belonging. His work has been exhibited widely in museums, biennales and galleries around the world.

He is Art Department Chair at the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University and is represented by the Galeria Nara Roesler in Sao Paulo and New York.

About Fierce

Performance / Parties / Politics / Pop

Fierce is Birmingham’s cultivator of artists, audiences and contexts for new performance – placing marginalised / outsider / alternative voices centre stage. We produce the internationally acclaimed Fierce Festival – a youthful and joy-filled festival of international theatre, performance and experiences which takes place in and around Birmingham every two years – as well as exciting and unique creative projects year round. For over 25 years, Fierce has been promoting Birmingham and the region across the world as a vibrant, diverse and tolerant place where the incredible happens in unusual places, the outlandish is embraced and celebrated and the new is welcomed with curiosity and kindness.

Key to the City is part of Fierce’s very special 25th Anniversary programme.

For Birmingham 2022 Festival, Fierce also presents Healing Gardens of Bab, 27 June – 17 July.

Fierce Festival 2022 takes place 11–16 October.

Learn more:

Follow us on social media: @fiercefestival

About Birmingham 2022 Festival

The Birmingham 2022 Festival unites people from around the Commonwealth through a celebration of creativity, in a six-month long programme, shining a spotlight on the West Midlands' culture sector.

Running from March to beyond the conclusion of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in September, the festival aims to entertain and engage over 2.5 million people in person and online.

Delivering over 200 projects across the region including art, photography, dance, theatre, digital art and more the festival will embrace local culture and generate lasting change and a creative legacy beyond the games with funding to community led projects from Birmingham City Council’s Creative City Grants scheme.

Major support has been dedicated by Arts Council England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Birmingham City Council and Spirit of 2012. The Birmingham 2022 Festival is grateful for further support from British Council, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, National Lottery Community Fund, Canada Council for the Arts, the High Commission of Canada in the UK, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Create Central, Creative New Zealand, UK/Australia Season 2021/2022, and Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee.

To learn more, view the full programme of events or get involved visit: