On 17 June 2013, in response to weeks of violent police attacks on protesters, the performance artist Erdem Gündüz stood in Istanbul’s Taksim Square for eight hours. He had a backpack at his feet and his hands in his pockets, and stared fixedly at the Ataturk Cultural Centre. Over the following weeks, men and women recreated Gündüz’s vigil, bringing with them books like 1984, The Metamorphosis, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.
The Taksim Square Book Club is powerful because of its contradiction. It is resistance suitable for the Instagram era, quiet and unobtrusive, but photogenic and viral. These public displays of private thought remind us of the end goal of contemporary authoritarian states: not the control of space, but the control of minds. In Turkey, after months of protest and state violence, the act of reading literature in public became dangerous in a way that it hasn’t been for decades—at least in the west. These public gatherings also politicize a private moment that cannot be reached by an authoritarian government—at least, not until the clubs come out.
I am startled by their powerful vulnerability and that such a simple act can be so moving.
Text courtesy of Rebecca Campbell