Summer of the Artivist; CULTURE Thanks to Social Media the 'Standing Man' Protests in Turkey Have Gone Global, Spreading to London in a Matter of Days. Jasmine Gardner Looks at How Tech and Art Are Breathing New Life into Activism

The Evening Standard (London, England), June 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

Summer of the Artivist; CULTURE Thanks to Social Media the 'Standing Man' Protests in Turkey Have Gone Global, Spreading to London in a Matter of Days. Jasmine Gardner Looks at How Tech and Art Are Breathing New Life into Activism


Byline: Jasmine Gardner

ERDEM Gunduz was the first man standing. The Turkish performance artist walked into Istanbul's Taksim Square, the centre of Turkey's ongoing anti-government protests, and for eight hours on Monday stood silently. According to reports from friends, until now Gunduz had not been a particularly politically active person, but acts such as this were part of his style as a street performer and dancer. On Tuesday Gunduz said, "I'm nothing," and yet he has started something.

As crowds joined him in the square and in the country's capital, Ankara, so worldwide support gathered online. Soon the hashtag #standingman was born (#duranadam in Turkish) on Twitter.

So it was only a matter of time before it reached London and yesterday pictures began to emerge on Twitter of standing men and women on the South Bank, in Battersea Park and in the middle of streets. On the south coast one man was photographed at the top of the Seven Sisters cliffs, his back to the camera and the words #diren-Turkiye (resist Turkey) spelled out in pebbles on the ground.

Today the Hackney branch of the trade union Unison is organising a Standing Man demo in support of the Turkish protesters at 12.30pm in Hackney Town Hall Square. London has joined the cause -- just as it has many others with artful protests this summer.

Last weekend the Southbank Centre's annual Meltdown festival began, this year curated by veteran activist Yoko Ono. Two members of the anti-Putin, Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot (the two who are not currently incarcerated) attended the festival, bringing their cause back to the attention of London with talks about their brand of feminism.

Earlier this month Richard Curtis made a film for agit8 -- a live event designed to inspire new activists to campaign for the G8 group of wealthy nations to end extreme poverty. The film, which was projected on to the side of Tate Modern, was an amalgam of protest songs and speeches.

Khaled Jarrar, a Palestinian artist whose exhibition of a reconstructed West Bank wall opened yesterday at the Ayyam Gallery on New Bond Street, says that, "Responsibility is the most important thing for an artist. If you don't feel some responsibility then there is no point being an artist."

Of course the link between art and activism has always been strong. As Curtis's agit8 film summed up as it opened with the words, "From the first time someone picked up a guitar to tonight, protest songs have been part of the journey towards progress." But as always it is technology (social media in particular) that is now helping these messages to propagate -- fast.

"Technology is a key medium of our time for any kind of communication but in terms of activism, whether it is a benign statement or outright revolution, technology has become the best way to spread a message. Only the development of the printing press had a similar impact," says Rory Blain, director at s[edition], a company which sells digital artwork for technological devices. "Art is another way of spreading a message or promoting an idea. …

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Summer of the Artivist; CULTURE Thanks to Social Media the 'Standing Man' Protests in Turkey Have Gone Global, Spreading to London in a Matter of Days. Jasmine Gardner Looks at How Tech and Art Are Breathing New Life into Activism
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