Theory

PERFORMATIC GESTURES in the PUBLIC SPACE HAUNT (NON) PARTICIPATORY ART28/06/2017Deniz GüvensoyThe demonstrations against the construction of the replica of an Artillery Barrack instead of Taksim’s Gezi Park coincided the opening of the 13th Istanbul Biennial, which focused on the relations between Art and Politics in the public sphere. The Biennale committee decided to withdraw all of the artworks that were to be displayed in the public space due to the effects of the uprising on the streets. This attitude was heavily criticized because it wasn’t the first time that the Biennale showed intolerance against the critical public opinions and contradicted their own conceptual framework, ‘Public Alchemy’. On 22 March 2013, a group of protesters have interrupted a public talk of the Biennale and has performed an act of protest by reading a poem loudly. The reason of this performative intervention was to protest the Biennale’s financial connections with the corporates, which have a role in the gentrification of the urban zones. In a second protest on 10th May 2013, activists wearing t-shirts with the names of the gentrified districts started to lie on the ground in the midst of a public event of the Biennale. The curator Fulya Erdemci has denounced one of the activists to the police because he was recording her and they were forced out of the building.The attitude of the Biennale organisation leaded to many debates of the notion of political art in the art institutions. One of these discussions is emerged when the artworks enclosed in the comfort zone of the Biennale confronted with the creative acts of resistance on the streets. The activists’ diverse methods of resistance such as the use of metaphors and the humour as a weapon to challenge the discourse of the sovereign were compared with the artworks in the Biennale. The questions were; what does political art mean? Does the creativity of these performative gestures of the resistance make the sincerity of the artworks questionable? What is political and what kind of position should art take in regarding to the politics? If the urban space has the capacity to turn into a site of creative actions in the times of the resistance, do we still need politically engaged art enclosed in the institutions? While there are real barricades on the streets, what is the meaning of an installation of some barricades inside a museum?Prof. Zeynep Sayın claims that when we take the action as an artistic form, it is necessary to establish a relation with the ‘place’. According to her, it is not possible to think the artistic event without thinking its ‘topos’. Artistic activities, which can’t relate to their places, are artificial:‘Gezi event has changed the conventional way of thinking in the world just as 11th September and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. If we consider the resistance as an artistic event, we recognize that the event has a place to be realized and it can’t be evaluated without considering its topography. Gezi event has opened its place, its own site. The Biennales or the Documenta often emphasize the importance of evaluating the issues regarding to the places where they happen and creating an event in its own local place. So that we can say that all Biennales in Turkey are artificial.’1 (SAYIN: 2013)

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