#Standing Man: Aesthetics of Nonviolent Resistance

Curator's Note

On the night of June 17, 2013, in the midst of all the chaos a young man in white shirt entered Taksim Square, just stood still and silent facing huge Atatürk posters hanging on the façade of the old cultural center. In the heyday of Gezi Park protests while police brutality became an everyday routine, tear gas was felt everywhere around the square and water cannons were used against masses of protestors, this young man choice a compelling way of resistance. He just stood still in complete silence. He did not utter a word. He did not move for 8 hours. At times when words seemed to be meaningless, there came a simple gesture.

“Standing Man” (Duran Adam) was like a summary of all Gezi spirit. Protestors were disgusted with nonsensical political discourse, Prime Minister’s aggression, loud and offensive debates, obnoxious statements and conventional politics. This time there was no word, no text, no leader in this performance. It was simple, calm, gentle, aesthetic, yet intense. This micro-seized moderate act made the whole grand political narratives look ridiculous. Since Gezi protests started with citizens’ environmentalist concerns to protect a park, this performance was conveniently overlapped with the urban culture. We all know that public spaces are for the use of citizens in democratic countries. Parks, squares, playing fields are supposed to be there for artistic expressions, spontaneous acts, shows unlike closed or restricted urban areas of authoritarian regimes. In this context, Standing Man symbolized all the democratic demands of protestors blended in creativity and modesty. The act was unexpected, spontaneous and at first seemed trivial, however, it eventually snowballed into something big. Others joined to this young man and the performance turned into a peaceful mass protest. In many cities in Turkey and around the world, hundreds of standing men and women stood still in absolute silence turning their vulnerability into an unbreakable power.


Thanks for reminding us of this small yet powerful gesture, Asli. I was wondering what you make of Erdem Gunduz's role as a performance artist? More generally, do you think arts in Turkey have been transformed through Gezi protests? Maybe we can also talk about the Istanbul Biennale, held in September. The original idea was to involve public art - and when all streets became sites of performance and / or exhibition throughout the protests, the organizers and the curator have chosen to cancel the public locations for the biennale and open the main location to the general public as an exhibition free of charge. I'd like to hear your opinions on these.

Yes, it was a indeed a very powerful performative action. Its directness, simplicity and accessibility inspired many people all around the world, all performed the same score, simply waiting in silence... Of course waiting has lots of connotations. Waiting for Godot perhaps the first one to come in mind. But also, it reminds me waiting in line for something to get. In fact we grew up in a country of scarcity, we waited for bread, gas, and other goods... 'Standing man' was waiting for democracy, human rights, civil liberties, at the time of police brutality, state violence and neoliberal Islamism. And yes, waiting is not an inactivity, it always refers to an action to follow.What should be the next? Perhaps since then we were all looking for answers, searching for the spirit of Gezi...

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