Tank Man Tango

 


TMT Bielefeld, Germany
 
 
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On 4 June 2009, in 20 or so cities around the globe, people gathered to make a memorial for the massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.  

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Bielefeld, Germany, photographer unknown, 4th June 2009

Two decades ago, the world saw a man with two shopping bags on television, moving oddly before a row of tanks rolling towards Tiananmen Square, preventing their advance.  

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Brisbane, Australia, photographer (m)elly nio, 4th June 2009

Through the mediating lens of the television, it looked like a remarkable choreography: a tense, sustained exchange between heavy military equipment and a single human being.  

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Bristol, Great Britain, photographer Duncan Speakman,
4th June 2009

What the world witnessed was a spontaneous individual attempting to hold off tanks rolling into the square after Government forces had bloodily quelled students’ and workers’ demonstrations for change. 

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Brussels, Belgium, photographer unknown, 4th June 2009

These televised couple of minutes became a worldwide symbol for non-violent resistance. The unknown man achieved iconic status, symbolising courage in the face of tyranny. He became the single most recognized, and reproduced, image of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.  

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Brussels, Belgium, photographer unknown, 4th June 2009

Australian artist Deborah Kelly became preoccupied with the question of commemorating these events after meeting a woman from Shanghai who was convinced that .... 

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Daylesford, Australia, photographer Sophie Risstrom,
4th June 2009

.... the Tiananmen Square massacre had never actually happened, and that the images were concocted by the US in an attempt to make China appear oppressive.  

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Leipzig, Germany, photographer Hendrik Pupat , 4th June 2009

Kelly was met with the same state-sanctioned amnesia as British documentary filmmaker Antony Thomas, who in 2006 showed a group of Chinese students a photograph of the Tank Man. None recognized the image.  

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Melbourne, Australia, photographer Megan Jones,
4th June 2009

In order to halt further erasure of the historical moment, and with the idea of collectivising the lone-hero figure, Kelly instigated the building of a memorial made of dancing bodies in cities around the world.  

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Mexico City, Mexico, photographer unknown, 4th June 2009

Through simple instructions on YouTube, people were invited to gather and recreate the steps taken by tank man as he defied the military might of the state.  

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Perth, Australia, photographer PVI Collective, 4th June 2009

The stylised choreography, online in English, German, Cantonese and Mandarin, was used by groups and individuals to mark the twentieth anniversary of the massacre in cities and towns across Australia, in Singapore, Korea, Europe and the Americas. 

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Sidney, Australia, photographer Su Goldfish, 4th June 2009

People gathered to pay homage, to learn how courage feels, to remember in their skins. They made the memorial to show solidarity, to promise resistance, to bring life to history and make it their own. 

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, The Substation, Singapore, photographer unknown,
4th June 2009

It connected people internationally - giving them a way to collectively engage with ongoing violations of human rights and articulate them powerfully in public. 

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Tuscon, USA, photographer unknown, 4th June 2009

Besides vigils and day watches, this piece of work, this ephemeral memorial made of dancing bodies triggers contemporary discussions of memorials in general; monuments, preferably cast canonical in iron and concrete.... 

people performing Tank Man Tango
Tank Man Tango, Weimar, Germany, photographer unknown, 4th June 2009

text by Deborah Kelly, Sidney, Australia
and Rayelle Niemann, Cairo, Egypt, June 2009

most of the photographs are video prints
 

video Tank Man Tango instructions ]
video Tank Man Tango remember ]
video Tank Man Tango, Bristol (GB) ]
video Tank Man Tango, Brussels (B) ]
video Tank Man Tango, Weimar (D) ]

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FORGET 2 FORGET
Tank Man Tango
MEDIA
video Tank Man Tango instructions
video Tank Man Tango remember
• video Tank Man Tango, Bielefeld (D) •video Tank Man Tango, Bristol (GB)
video Tank Man Tango, Brussels (B)
video Tank Man Tango, Weimar (D)
RELATED WEB SITES
→ project web-site
→ livestreamings Tank Man Tango
→ story behind iconic picture

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