How One Turkish Artist's Silent Performance Kept the Protests Alive

Turkish artist Erdem Gündüz (center) stands in a silent protest at Taksim Square, Istanbul
(REUTERS/Marko Djurica )

On Tuesday, Erdem Gündüz, a Turkish artist and choreographer stood alone in Taksim Square with his hands in his pockets, neither moving nor speaking. As one of the country’s activist artists, Gündüz’s plan was to stand, as an act of protest, for one month. Three days later, this form of creative protest — endurance art as activism — has caught on: people are standing in shopping malls, plazas, and other public venues throughout Turkey, silently and peacefully demonstrating against the increasingly brutal crackdown by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Gündüz stood for several hours on Tuesday, remaining dignified and calm, even as the police searched his backpack and body. His only movement was to unbutton his pants when it seemed like he was going to be strip-searched. As the crowds grew and protestors joined Gündüz, he made his way out of the plaza. Others were arrested. In an interview with the BBC Gündüz said, “The government doesn't want to understand, didn't try to understand why people are on the streets. This is really silent resistance.”

Groups large and small have been forming, in Turkey and beyond with the hashtags #direnankara and #duranadam (standingman, standingwoman) proliferating on social media. Hundreds of people have been standing in Taksim Square, while it has been reported that a single woman stood for 30 hours in the place in Ankara where fellow the protestor Ethem Sar?sülük was killed during clashes with the police earlier this month. Outside of Turkey, protestors in Milan lined the boulevard across from the Turkish embassy, and individuals attending an EU meeting in Brussels on Freedom of Expression in the Western Balkans and Turkey stood with their eyes covered in bandages to protest a speaker from the Turkish Ministry of Justice.

According to his website, Gündüz is a contemporary artist who works in dance, performance art, and fine art. Historically, his work has not been overtly political, though he was active in the debate over women wearing headscarves, donning one to class in support of lifting the ban on women covering their heads in state buildings. He has been actively Tweeting from the handle @Duranaadamm since earlier this week.

To see images of Turkey's silent protests, click on the slideshow.

To see footage of the silent protests in Taksim Square, click on the video below:

To see footage of a previous performance by the same artist, click on the video below: