In the aftermath of a tumultuous weekend in Istanbul, artist Merve Unsal reflects on the relationship between social media and the quotidian practice of protest.
Photograph by Ian Usher taken at Gezi Park on June 8, 2013, one week before the park was cleared by riot police backed by armored vehicles.
I grew up listening to what cities should and/or could be—my mother teaches urban planning at a public university in Istanbul, an institution whose beginnings in the late 19th century can be traced to the effort to change, adapt and preserve what was then the Ottoman Empire, and which later came to symbolize the (dis)continuity of modern ideals between the Empire and the Republic of Turkey. I learned about the neighborhood of Pera from architectural historian Dogan Kuban in efforts to make dinner conversation with my mom as a teenager. And yet, my relationship with the city that I lived in did not become tangible until May 30, 2013, when I went to Gezi Park after dinner.
The year 1980 is a generational point of demarcation in Turkey, a cut-off. The turmoil of the 1970s erupted in a military coup d'etat in 1980 that left an indelible mark on the generation that would become our parents; their generation was slapped—for lack of a better word—every ten years, 1960, 1971, 1980, even 1997. We—the kids born in the 80s—were raised to stay out of trouble.
[A recent survey in Gezi Park reveals that this is the first protest for many of the occupiers.]
Trouble found us, as the tents of peaceful protesters were burnt at dawn on May 31. Most of us watched the video of how the police treated the protestors in bed from our iPhones. The distance engendered by ...