Ankara: Art And Artists In Resistance


Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey
June 17 2013

Despite the anxiety over Gezi Park, creativity has been on watch.

Filmmakers and musicians have been voicing their concerns here and
across the globe. Creative visuals, songs and videos have been an
integral part of the protests

The pictures and videos emerging from Gezi Park for the last 18
days are, among many other things, of great contradiction to the
world trying to make sense of the protests and the clashes. The live
coverage of police brutality to protesters and civilians with tear gas
and water cannons alternate with scenes of peace and solidarity the
next day, like a piano concerto in the park where thousands watched
and applauded, including the riot police.

German musician Davide Martello carried his piano to the center of the
park on June 12 for a spontaneous performance with Turkish musician
Yigit Ozatalay. The reaction was emotional, the feelings overwhelming,
and the inspiration instant. Soon after, New York’s Zuccotti Park,
home to the Occupy Wall Street movement, had its own baby piano.

As much as the protests against the Turkish government’s increasingly
autocratic regime have been a source of angst and anxiety since its
first days, it has also been a source of creativity and artistic
inspiration. Protesters in social media have coined the term
“disproportional wit” or “disproportional creativity” in an answer to
the much-used term “disproportional violence” throughout the protests.

In the first days of the protests, pictures of graffiti, street art
and posters put smiles across faces of those across their computers,
surfing frantically on social media. Within the week, short films,
animations and videos were circulating on social media. Some of these
were the works of young, passionate amateurs, others products of
professionals who contributed to the fight for democracy and freedoms
through putting their talents in use.

If you visit the website, you’ll be able to
listen to over 80 songs written, performed and recorded during these
18 days. Some of these songs are the covers of famous songs, like
Sting’s “I’ll Be Watching You” or the rebel song from the musical
“Les Misérables,” “Do You Hear the People Sing?” with the lyrics
appropriate for the protests.

Do you hear the people sing?

But more than half of these songs are original songs, showing the
diversity of the groups that have become part of the Gezi Park protests
in Istanbul and across Turkey. You will listen to ethnic music of
Laz and Alevi, classical Turkish music, rock, electro-pop, rap and
anthems. Some of these songs were written and performed by acclaimed
Turkish musicians like the momsy doyenne of Turkish pop, Nazan Oncel,
and the rock heartthrobs Duman. Even the world-famous classical music
pianist Fazıl Say, a recent target of the government’s crackdown on
free speech, gave a concert in the Aegean city of Ä°zmir with a pan,
a popular tool of protest of those at their homes. Many filmmakers and
actors have also become the voices of the resistance, going as far
to set up a Filmmakers’ Tent in the colorful tent city in Gezi Park
(to be broken by a raid by the police with tear gas last week). More
than 700 film professionals, including directors like Ozcan Alper,
Fatih Akın and actors like Halit Ergenc and Cem Yılmaz, as well
as 13 film associations, issued a call to the government last week,
urging for “the termination of police violence, an end to threats of
intervention and continuation of the dialogue.”

The concerned voices from the world of arts not only came from Turkey,
but across the globe. The photo of a smiling Tilda Swinton, holding
a paper that read, “Right now police is violently attacking citizens
in Istanbul,” made the rounds in social media.

To reconcile (or not) with the art world

Other messages came from acclaimed musicians Patti Smith, Joan Baez,
Roger Waters and Thom Yorke. An open letter to Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan began with, “We, citizens of the world, are deeply
saddened and concerned by the severe violence against citizens of
Turkey by the Turkish police over the last couple of days in Turkish
cities including Istanbul.” The letter was signed by American political
critic and activist Noam Chomsky, British author Hanif Kureishi,
actress and activist Susan Sarandon, British filmmaker Terry Gilliam,
among other renowned names. The ruling Justice and Development Party’s
(AKP) ignorance, disregard, and often disdain, for the arts have been
a major concern of Turkey’s intellectuals, artists, and educated,
urban citizens for some time now.

Two years ago, the prime minister had called well-known artist Mehmet
Aksoy’s sculpture in Kars, a symbol of Turkish-Armenian friendship and
reconciliation “a freak,” and asked for its demolition. Last year,
Erdogan condemned Turkish intellectuals of “despotic arrogance”
after his daughter was insulted during the staging of a play. He
threatened to cut state funding of country’s theaters, and he is
making good of his word as the funding cuts for state theaters,
ballet and opera are imminent.

So out of touch are Erdogan and his colleagues from the AKP with
the world of arts and culture, that their attempts to reach out and
reconcile became a source of joke when he invited Necati Å~^aÅ~_maz,
the leading actor of the now-canceled ultra-nationalist TV series
“Kurtlar Vadisi” (Valley of the Wolves), and the popular actress and
diva Hulya AvÅ~_ar, a public figure of indifference and insensitivity
towards women’s issues and ethnic minorities. Å~^aÅ~_maz’s lack
of coherence and poor Turkish during a televised press statement
following his meeting with the prime minister flooded Twitter with
thousands of jokes.

“World of translators and linguists unite,” said one tweet.

For AvÅ~_ar’s meeting with Erdogan, another tweet said it all,
“Imagine Obama calling Kim Kardashian to the White House after a
civil uprising.”


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