Content Type: Article
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.
In the Semiotics of the Protest performed video, I visually examine the key significance of the body and its language for the materialization of the street protest, the vital tool by means of which people reclaim public space and activate it as a political terrain. The video is based on a performance for which I invited a volunteer dancer to “rehearse” public gestures of resistance against oppression. Challenging dominant representations of protestors as “mobs” and protestors’ bodies as irrational and uncontrollable entities, in this performed video, I visually analyse the political demonstration as choreographic tactics executed by bodies which are meaningful and purposeful and which, through their gestures, move forward to social change.
This paper investigates the conditions in which photojournalistic images of the past are becoming iconic and it also traces the ways in which such images actively negotiate the meanings of particular events. Starting from Robert Hariman and John Lucaites’ iconic photography methodology (2007), this research aims to clarify how iconicity operates in specific situations defined by cultural and digital circumstances. The proposed case study analyses the photographs of the events known as Miners’ Raids that took place in Bucharest, Romania in the aftermath of the December 1989 Revolution. First, through a close reading of the aesthetic qualities of the photographic composition, I investigate how images themselves are sites where meaning is produced and how they have the power to sustain multiple and sometimes contradictory semiotic transcriptions. Second, I trace the circulation and appropriation of these photographs to argue their capacity to generate debates and absorb new meanings in the course of their afterlives. The purpose is to understand how photography can work as a distinct category that can articulate complex ideas, judgments, and dialogue.
Zigzagging through personal memory and historical episodes of great consequence – the fall of the Berlin wall, the Romanian revolution and the April 2018 protests in Nicaragua – the essay seeks points of connection between the personal and the political, exploring how the two are intimately and inextricably intertwined. The textual approach can be situated in-between historical analysis and auto-biographical fiction; the aim is to enable multi-layered narratives, and contrasting, conflicting temporalities to co-exist. Illustrative of this intent, Romanian artist Călin Man intervenes upon the more well-known documentary photographs referenced in the text, by conflating them with everyday snapshots from the city of Arad taken at different points along the temporal arc described.
The photo essay, a form of visual journalism that arose during the era of the picture magazines, has reemerged as a regular feature of global news channels, including CNN, BBC World, and, notably, Al Jazeera English, recognized for its live reporting of political unrest. In 2017, a year marked by protest around the world, AJE published over 200 photo-series, including 37 on public protest. An analysis based in a four-year study of protest on screen, revealed that these photo essays share characteristics that in turn distinguish them from video broadcasts of public protests. The photo-reportage on screen, like its classic forerunner in print, employs a variety of visual perspectives and focuses on participants who are often quoted and identified by name. Scenes of public protest are complemented by visual and textual reporting from the private/domestic sphere. This visual strategy, in contrast to the immediacy of video coverage from the streets, supports knowledge of the protest issue and engagement with its participants.
Gezi Uprising was a wave of popular protests and horizontal mobilizations that emerged at the urban center of Istanbul against the destruction of a public park at the end of May 2013 and then quickly spread across the country. Gezi Uprising was marked by a revolutionary visual strategy of commoning images and repurposing them and this helped connect many protesting neighborhoods and locations, and their specific grievances. Along this synchronic imagination of the protest, the circulation of images also fostered a diachronic imagination that connected past struggles and experiences with the current ones, creating a sense of temporal connections of experiences of this newly imagined community. The photocollages of graphic designer and artist Füsun Turcan Elmasoğlu illustrates the mode through which the heightened diachronic imagination was fostered by the collective creativity during the uprising. Elmasoğlu created collages by bringing images that belong to the same place but 38 years apart; images from the large Labor Day demonstration at Taksim Square in 1977, “the Bloody May 1” together with current images of the square.