Speech of Erdem Gunduz in Vienna

My name is Erdem Gündüz... I am a freelance choreographer and dancer.

Most of you know me as the Standing Man, and this is the main reason why I am here. 

 First of all, let us define what Standing Man is. Standing Man, which became sort of a symbol for equality and freedom, would be first perceived as a performance. However, my aim was not performing a piece, although I am a performer. I went and stood there as a ordinary citizen of Turkey. Just like everybody else.

What happened was, this was accepted as a performance. And just like a work of pop art, it has been reproduced. So, rather than being a work of art, or performance, it became an object of art. It is the same in dance. Dance can turn into an object of art. 

So, here, there comes a specific question: Is this a piece of art? A performance? A happening? An object of art? Is it a dance? Or is it a life art, and is the life of an artist, on the whole, a work of art? 

There are various ways to perceive what I did. The way it is perceived depends on the needs of the viewer. It also depends on how the viewer analyzes and assesses what they see. 

When defining a piece of art and the artist, Marcel Duchamp says: “Let us consider two important factors, the two poles of the creation of art: the artist on the one hand, and on the other the spectator who later becomes the posterity. To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.”

So, in Duchamp’s words, the artist is like a medium, so we cannot claim that he or she is conscious on the esthetic plane about what she is doing and why she is doing it. Her decisions are taken by intuition.  

From this perspective, we may further claim that the viewer also does not make a conscious decision about how they are going to percieve the work of art. Many factors play different roles in how the spectator views and perceives the work of art. These factors may be the environment, cultural inheritance and educational factors. 

One of the factors is the gathering of information. Multi-intelligence plays a major role in this sense. People wear different glasses, but what they primarily see is the glasses themselves. 

The information about who the artist is, and his/her background, plays a very important role when people see a work of art. In my earlier speeches, I have asked a specific question: “How would people have perceived the Standing Man if I weren’t a performance artist?” First of all, my purpose of doing this was not doing a performance or fine arts. I did this as a citizen living in that country. This was not intended to be a performance. What is interesting here is, if the person who began this performance was an ordinary man on the street, maybe people would not perceive it as a performance.  It is also the same for the understanding of fine arts.

However, a few hours later I began standing in Taksim Square, people began to form the reproductions of the Standing Man. Soon it became clear that this was not meant to be a performance, but a reaction against the media institutions who did not cover the protests in a rightful way, and a reaction against police violence. This was not a performance anymore, and all the information about my personal background, about who exactly I am has now gained multiple meanings. The happening gained priority, and I was there, only like a medium that transfers the social conscience back to the society itself. 

In other words, the author was dead. People could steal the work of the author, and reproduce it in any way they wanted to. 

(In Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory, the individual system can be seen as a minor replica of the entire polysystem. Polysystem theory considers culture to have a center dominated by a group that establishes an official ideology. This ideology in turn influences the various systems within the polysystem by affecting their respective centers. All the systems within the polysystem are distributed between the center of the polysystem and its periphery. Those at the center dominate and control the polysystem, and these systems provide and govern its main ideologies and practices. The ones in the periphery represent alternative or marginal systems. 

Agian, according to this theory, the structure of the polysystem is dynamic. The systems in the periphery try to take over the center. And the ones in the center will try to preserve their positions. 

During the Gezi Park protests, the Standing Man was neither at the center nor at the periphery. Within the dynamics of the polysystem of the protests, it first took the central role but then it was reproduced, became anonymous, and was spread through the central and peripheral systems as a whole. 

The individual contributions into this polysystem may lead to a multiplicity within the periphery. This multiplicity derives from an autonomous system which has no leader, which is governed on its own. In such a system, everyone is a leader and hero or heroine.  )

My initial purpose, on the other hand, was only to follow my urge, my responsibility as an artist. Just as Kim Sooja says, "I feel a responsibility now to put my endeavor to the (art)world in a modest way, even with one single person in this whole world to share and to support the real concerns.... experiencing how the opinion of the society can be twisted by leading the public with wrong information or by not giving information, or by manipulating the reality mainly using mass media..." 

Thanks for Ahu sıla who has prepared this speech for me