See my post here about the 1989 protests and massacre.
The Substation & Deborah Kelly Present : Tank Man Tango
Dates: Thur 4 and Fri 5 June
Times: See below
Venue: The Substation Theatre & The Substation Gallery
The Tank Man Tango!
Collective public performance and exhibition happening at The Substation commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests
Thursday 4 June, 6:30 to 10pm, The Substation Theatre: Collective performance of the Tank Man Tango
Friday 5 June, from 12 to 9pm, The Substation Gallery: Public installation of paper Goddess of Democracy statues and screening of documentaries
To view the video of the Tank Man Tango steps and an introductory video, please visit forget2forget: memory & memorial.
From mid-April to earl June 1989, the world witnessed a massive civic movement in China. It began with students mourning in Tiananmen Square for the death of Hu Yaobang. Hu was the politician who was removed from the position of Communist Party general secretary in 1987 and who espoused democratic and anti-corruption values. Within a week, the number of people gathered had increased to 100,000. On May 13 hundreds of students started a hunger strike in the Square. Collectively, all those gathered were protesting the corruption and income inequality that was getting progressively worse, and demanded democratic political reform.
On the evening of 3rd of June, tanks rolled through Beijing with soldiers firing at civilians who blocked their path. The tanks reached Tiananmen Square and soldiers fanned out and fired into the air. By the dawn of 4 June, the students and workers were allowed safe passage out of the Square after Zhou Duo, a writer and Taiwanese rock star Hou Dejian led successful negotiations with the army. The Chinese government states that hundreds were killed. Student associations and the Chinese Red Cross say the figure is in the thousands.
Soldiers continued firing for the next two days although the protests were quelled, and still, tanks rolled toward Tiananmen Square. On 5 June, one man armed with nothing more than shopping bags astonishingly stopped a column of tanks. As they ground to a halt before him, he seemed to be waving them away with bags in hand. When the front tank tried to drive around this lone figure, he repeatedly stepped left and right in the tank’s way, refusing to let it pass him. Following the shock and horror generated by the crushing violence in the killings, in the silence of the aftermath, this lone man’s courageous actions spoke for the people who had been forcibly oppressed. The incident was reported by the international media around the world and this unidentified figure was christened Tank Man.
Twenty years have passed since the protests. That same year, the world witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then the Soviet bloc has collapsed and China has developed in ways that might not have been predicted in 1989. In the world’s rush for progress, the memory of Tiananmen Square fades. The 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests presents a timely opportunity to reflect on the steps to approach and sustain democracy.
Tank Man Tango by Australian artist Deborah Kelly, in consultation with ex-Beijing designer Wei Lan, serves as a momentary monument to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protesters. In collaboration with The Substation, Tank Man Tango is a public project to be performed across the cities of Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong and Weimar, Germany. It involves the recreation of the steps of Tank Man, in the form of a dance, which will be recorded on video and distributed online via YouTube.
On Thursday 4 June 2009 from 6:30 to 9pm, members of the public are invited to gather and perform the Tank Man Tango together at The Substation Theatre. The performance will be documented and uploaded on the memorial website which will function as an archive against amnesia of this important event, bringing the memory of Tank Man out of the shadows and restoring him to public consciousness.
Tank Man Tango will be accompanied by an exhibition in The Substation Gallery on Friday 5 June. Visitors will be asked to construct small replicas of the Goddess of Democracy in the gallery, from a supplied DIY kit. The Goddess of Democracy was a 10m papier-mâché statue made by students of the Central Academy of Fine Arts. It was erected in Tiananmen Square on 30 May 1989, despite attempts by the government to prevent its presence.
According to the students who created the statue, “We need a powerful cementing force to strengthen our resolve: That is the Goddess of Democracy. Democracy…You are the symbol of every student in the Square, of the hearts of millions of people. …Today, here in the People’s Square, the people’s Goddess stands tall and announces to the whole world: A consciousness of democracy has awakened among the Chinese people! The new era has begun! … Erect the statue of the Goddess of Democracy in your millions of hearts! Long live the people! Long live freedom! Long live democracy!” The Goddess of Democracy was toppled by tanks sent into Tiananmen Square on 4 June. She was quickly reduced to rubble and cleared by the army, as protesters shouted “Down with Fascism!”
Tank Man Tango intends to ‘mark time’, to actively remember those moments in Beijing two decades ago and to provide an opportunity for people across the globe to make a memorial.