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The Politics of the Balcony in Contemporary Art

Project leader:
Eylem Ertürk

2 years

Funded by:
Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW)

Eylem Ertürk, Institute for Education in the Arts and Institute for Art Theory and Cultural Studies
Duration: 1.12.2022 – 30.11.2024

The Ph.D. research on “The Politics of the Balcony in Contemporary Art” explores artistic practices that deal with political histories in public space. It focuses on the balcony as a site of public address and representational space of power, a liminal space in between the private and the public realm, in between the “above” and “below”. It investigates the political meaning of the balcony through visual and performative analysis of two recurring acts: balcony speeches by political figures in the last century and contemporary art practices on or related to the balcony. The political action in balcony speeches, its performativity, and spatial dimensions, have been captured visually in photographs and films and shared in various media. Using these materials as resources, the thesis investigates the representational elements of political speeches. It deconstructs the images of balcony speeches to investigate different aspects of political representation through elements of architecture, the performance of bodies, and assembly in public space. It aims to reveal the symbols and dynamics of creating a representational space of power and propose ways of using this knowledge in artistic strategies. The balcony has been a contested subject, a critical place, an image, and a statement in contemporary art through photographs, video works, paintings, performances, installations, interventions, exhibitions, etc. By analysing a wide range of contemporary artworks in relation to their political and social context, the thesis will have a critical look at the artistic strategies in dealing with a space of political power. How can art respond to social issues in public space without reproducing the performance and image of hegemonic power? How can it re-appropriate a critical space to create solidarity and resistance to power? Researching the relations between balcony speeches, the public sphere, and artistic practices offers new perspectives on the public function and political philosophy of the balcony, and I hope will contribute to debates on artistic strategies dealing with power and representation in public space.