Gezi’s Many Women in Red: A Genealogy of an Icon from Street to Stage

Pieter Verstraete*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this essay for Performance Research's special theme 'On Protest', I suggest revisiting the importance of the image of the ‘woman in red’ from the 2013 Gezi Park protests in engendering a whole lineage of signifiers of indignation that would later solidify in theatrical form in performances inside and outside Turkey. It is my contention that the remediation of this iconic image through social media, street performance and theatre constitutes a genealogy of performative ‘effigies’ (Roach 1996). I discuss how, as a deliberate aesthetic strategy, the many remediations of this effigy extends dramaturgies of social protest that were already innately theatrical to the gaze while resisting total encapsulation in aesthetic regimes of artistic representation. This complex case allows us then to look at the very role theatricality can play in the interstices of protest and creative activism in affecting different publics, even if that theatricality was non-intentional, or even unsolicited in the first place. This challenges a stereotyped dualism between political activism and artivism (De Cauter 2013), whether in the streets or on the stage. I read each of the selected images in terms of their power to transform the struggles of indignant citizens into a political alternative and international notice. I conclude that the women in red effigies that have moved from the street into post-Gezi theatre plays call for an 'agonistic solidarity' (Arendt 1998; Silverstone 2006) in humanitarian spectatorship, thereby teasing De Cauter's dualism with the potential of performativity to affect competing publics and inoperative communities (Nancy 1991) across classes outside the mimetic spheres of bourgeois culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-149
Number of pages11
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 19-May-2022

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