Experiencing Gezi Protests through image: being away and being there

Curator's Note

For Debord, spectacle is necessarily alienating, isolating and passive. Similar to commodity fetishism where relations between things are mistaken as relations between beings, spectacle finds its ultimate expression in representation where the real relations are out of one’s framework. Indeed, there is an isolation in experiencing something as an image: On June 2, 2013, people outside of Turkey were watching hundreds of their peers crossing the bridge, walking towards Gezi Park to defend it against demolition. The image was spectacular, yet unreachable. Nevertheless, live images published via variety of internet platforms including twitter,( #resistgezi, #direngezi, youtube, Capul TV, livestream, as well as tmblr’s #occupygezi were the only way to experience and participate to this exceptional event.

Following months, a carnivalesque multiplicity on the streets began, a total of 3.1 million citizens in 80 provinces out of 81 has participated in the protests producing images and artworks to express their desires and messages to those who listen. Yet, not everyone was there tangibly, carnally. When it comes to activism where being on the ground understood as the “real” way to voice one’s presence, diaspora becomes more than a hindrance, a disability. Songs of the resistance, images of the events, secretly streamed live videos as well as art produced out there becomes one’s reality happening right here. Spectacle was creating its antithesis: concurrent spaces of experience where the outsiders can participate by disseminate images opening up desires of masses out there breathing pepper gas.

This was not a simple consummation of  images. Kurds, Turks, leftists, religious minorities, homeless, bourgeois, conservatives, LGBTQIAP, mothers, children were together yet not melting into a single discourse that can be subsumed easily. For the political body that expects a unified demand or, for the mainstream media to taxonomize these events to interpret them for normalization, all those images, words, poems were producing monstrous anomalies. When a wish list was finally produced by the protesters, it was a practical list rather than a single message. The list did not really explain a unified demand but pinpointed to raison d’être of people’s presence, that was: “we exist, we are here and we have demands”. What is most significant here is this “we” was an irreducible multiplicity that resisted to be appropriated as such, neither by a single image nor by a simple political discourse.

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