10 Haziran 2013 Pazartesi

Gezi Park likely to dwarf this year's İstanbul Biennial - Rumeysa Kiger / TODAY'S ZAMAN

The image shows Taksim Square’s Topçu Barracks, which were demolished in 1940 on the advice of French city planner Henri Prost. Now, Gezi Park stands in the area once occupied by the barracks. (Photo: Archive)


While many observers have begun to raise questions about the potential impact that Turkey's ongoing wave of protests may have on international events scheduled to be held in the country in the weeks and months to come, most of these events in fact tend to be related to sports. The event most likely to be affected, however, is actually the upcoming İstanbul Biennial, which may find itself dwarfed by the outpouring of cultural and artistic creativity that has accompanied the protests.

Many of the most striking activities being organized in Gezi Park are those related to arts and culture. From an open-air library built near the center of the park to performances by musicians, theater artists and dancers, every type of artist is supporting this peaceful space through their art. Some figures in the culture and arts world have gone as far as to suggest that this year's İstanbul Biennial, which is scheduled for fall, should be canceled and Gezi Park should be announced as the official biennial instead.

Video artist Köken Ergun told Today's Zaman at the park that a “Gezi Biennial” is a very good idea, since the site now features a very wide group of people from almost every segment of society, which a biennial usually is unable to achieve. “It is not just the artistic performances, but every slogan, every piece of writing is an artwork here. İstanbul Biennial was probably hoping to do something in Taksim Square but it was hard for them to do so because of permission issues. But the people have done it themselves; the whole square and park are now functioning as a biennial. Whatever İstanbul Biennial will do after this cannot go beyond this point. In fact this should be announced as the biennial and all those art experts of the world who regularly come to the opening should come here and see this,” Ergun added.

Another artist-activist, Tayfun Serttaş, said that he has never witnessed such an initiative, such an act of civilian disobedience in his life. “I believe the best location on earth to be right now is Gezi Park. And, of course, art is an important part of what's going on here. Wherever you look there is an artistic performance going on. However, this energy should be channeled properly and artists have a huge responsibility at this point. I call on all the artists in Turkey and the world to come here and give workshops and perform their art here. The more we do so, the more it becomes something else. Some would call it a biennial, some would [call it a] festival, some would not give a name,” Serttaş said, adding that nothing, including the arts, will remain the same in Turkey after these events. “We will have to rethink and discuss everything from now on. We have been discussing about public spaces, gentrification problems and practices and artistic performances in public spaces for a long time in İstanbul. We were feeling very hopeless and the most important thing this brought us is the motivation that we have right now. There won't be just one revolution coming out of this but numerous ones and at least one of them will be beautiful,” he stressed.

In a similar vein, theater critic Yaşam Kaya said that every square meter in the park has been turned into an improvised theater. “William Shakespeare's words ‘All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players' have became a reality perhaps for the first time in the world. I think it's a beautiful idea to turn the park into the biennial so that the ‘rebellion art' started by society can be seen by everyone in the world,” he suggested.

Other figures in the art world, on the other hand, do not think that Gezi Park should be considered a biennial. Painter Özgür Korkmazgil for instance says that the issue is not particularly relevant as biennials are not very important events anymore. “In Gezi Park today, we are witnessing an unbelievable manifestation every day. Creativity and criticism are reaching their peaks in the park right now but is not a biennial because biennials only serve sponsors. There is a much younger structure right now in the park. Art is not only performed by the artists anymore; Gezi Park is the biggest example of this. We cannot present the reality of the park as a biennial,” he insisted.

This year's İstanbul Biennial as currently planned aims to “highlight the potential of the discourse of the public domain through an examination of spatial justice and art in the public domain.” However, conceptual artist Banu Cennetoğlu said the reclamation of public space in Gezi Park has entirely pre-empted such a question. “A very well-intentioned but exploitative approach might attempt to appropriate the park for the art biennial. They should see this as an opportunity, reconsider the terminology they have used and allocate their resources to the park as the process evolves,” she argued.

Another artist, Nazan Azeri, also argued that looking at the park as an artistic installation or performance and turning it into a biennial space wouldn't be right since the price of the struggle for this park cannot be exploited in such a way. “This year's biennial will not be meaningful anymore and it should be cancelled. The institutions who are engaged with it should think this through and initiate a process of self-criticism,” she further stressed.

DOCUMENTARIST film fest wraps up in Gezi

This year's DOCUMENTARIST, İstanbul Documentary Days film festival, wrapped up with an award ceremony on Sunday evening in Taksim's Gezi Park.

Switzerland-based young Turkish director Ufuk Emiroğlu's debut film “Babam, Devrim ve Ben” (My Father, the Revolution and Me) won the festival's Johan van der Keuken New Talent Award, designed to encourage young documentary filmmakers. The director was also presented with a gas mask by the festival's organizers.

Doğu Akıncı won an honorable mention for his film “Mustafa'nın Yaşam Zinciri” (The Life Chain of Mustafa). Akıncı said as he accepted his award that people in the park were not only there to attend the award ceremony, but also to join the resistance against the government's plans to demolish the park.

Nearly 1,000 people attended the closing ceremony of the festival, the organizers of the event announced in a written statement on Monday.

This year's festival was extended for three days to show the films that had their screenings cancelled due to Gezi Park protests. The sixth annual festival presented over 200 documentaries from around the world, also featured documentaries focusing on the theme of resistance. Today's Zaman, İstanbul

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