Transvaluation and Aesthetic Displacement

Gezi Park and the Power of Art

Transvaluation and Aesthetic Displacement

Gezi Park and the Power of Art

The wave of demonstrations that developed out of the Gezi Park sit-ins manifested a form of aesthetic creativity that employed transvaluation and displacement in a way that set them apart from other protests in Turkey and the Arab world. Transvaluation and displacement were arguably among the primary forces that drove the protests following the forceful breakup of the Gezi Park sit-ins. The protests began when police forcefully removed sleeping demonstrators from Gezi Park. To most observers, the police use of violence to clear the park was deemed disproportionate, and the resistance countered the tear gas, truncheons, water cannons, and detentions with a level of aesthetic intensity that surprised detractors as well as supporters. The primary aim of the movement was to protect a park in the center of Istanbul, but the resistance represented a broad coalition of those who opposed what they perceived as the autocratic ruling style of then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They ranged from anti-capitalist Muslims to students who simply opposed the Prime Minister’s Islamification of the Turkish public sphere. Examining the way in which transvalution and displacement were used as a response to the force employed by riot police at the direction of the Turkish government shows how political art was employed effectively in the Gezi Park protests.

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Art can by no means counteract force directly. But likewise, force cannot directly divert an aesthetic expression.
Reading time: 17 min.

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