Erdem Gunduz, the “Standing Man” performance artist who instigated a wave of peaceful protests throughout Turkey, participated in the Kennedy Center’s Cultural Exchange Visitors Program in 2007. The two-week arts education program, developed with the State Department, brought four modern dancers and two hip-hop dancers from Turkey to Washington and New York.
Kennedy Center spokesman John Dow confirmed Gunduz’s participation but said the Kennedy Center no longer sponsors the program. Gunduz could not be reached to comment.
Gunduz, a dancer and performance artist from Izmir, Turkey, initiated a wave of peaceful protests after he paused in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Monday night, staring up at an image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
According to the Associated Press, Gunduz maintained the motionless pose, with his hands in his pockets, for several hours, leading other protesters to join him in the silent display of defiance. The images of Standing Man went viral on social media Monday. Hundreds of protesters have since imitated the pose in cities across the country.
On Wednesday, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Arinc, responded to the protests, saying they were “pleasing to the eye” and that since the protests were peaceful, “we cannot condemn it.”
In Turkey, nationwide protests began two weeks ago in response to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s violent crackdown against a sit-in at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, where demonstrators had gathered to express opposition to plans to develop the park. More than 3,000 people have been arrested since the beginning of the protests, according to estimates by human rights groups in Turkey.