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The 13th Istanbul Biennial Public Programme co-curators Andrea Phillips and Fulya Erdemci’s statement on the protests of the 2nd and 3rd Public Programme Events

The 13th Istanbul Biennial Public Programme events were disrupted for the second time by the same group of protestors.

At the artists’ performance by Vermeir & Heiremans on May 10 at the Taksim Marmara Hotel as part of the 13th Istanbul Biennial Public Programme, a group of protestors disrupted the performance by repeatedly entering the stage and lying on the floor covered in a banner.  They were taken outside the conference room by the Biennial production team so that the performance could continue. During the hour long performance, Niyazi Selçuk, who was among the audience, persistently filmed Fulya Erdemci, the co-curator, Istanbul Biennial Director and their guest.

At the end of the performance, Fulya Erdemci asked Niyazi Selçuk not to use the footage of herself without her permission. Niyazi Selçuk said that he regarded this as a threat and he could use the footage in any manner he wanted. When Fulya Erdemci and her guest stated that this was a violation of their personal individual rights and they would file a complaint to prevent the unauthorized use of this footage, Selçuk responded he wanted to file a complaint against them in return. Both parties filed complaints about the other and legal proceedings were initiated. No complaint was filed against the protestors.

Reflections on what happened

The actions of the protestors at this performance questioning the relationship of art and capital can be discussed and considered in the framework of the relation between art and activism to the extent that they do not entail violence or vandalism. However, can Niyazi Selçuk persistently filming Fulya Erdemci for over an hour be regarded as a protest or activism? If this is to be regarded as a protest method, what is the aim of this protest? Is it possible to bring a political issue to the agenda through psychological violence, harassment and violation of individual rights? When protesting ceases to be a means and becomes an end in itself, what does it actually aim for?

How can political thought and action define and respond to the boundaries between activism, vandalism and opportunism?

The aim of the Biennial and Public Programme is to open up the idea of a real public sphere to all kinds of different voices, even conflicting ideas, in which people can talk without fear and without obstructing one another. Impeding such platforms only reproduces the methods that obstruct freedom of expression. We think that talking, listening and trying to understand each other is the only way to enable social, political and artistic change.