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Taipei Diary No. 3. On Clenched Fists and Supporting Hands

Veröffentlicht am 17.05.2018

Every morning I walk past this sculpture on the campus of the National Taipei University of the Arts. And every morning it makes me think. The upper part of the sculpture forms a clenched fist, a typical gesture of protest and rebellion. It speaks of boldness, strength, willpower, decisiveness. The lower part forms a hand that supports the fist. Without it, the latter would fall to the ground.

I have no idea about the intentions of the artist(s) who conceived and produced this work. But if I were to interpret freely, I'd say it bears witness to the fragility of any militant protest or rebellion that is not supported by and connected with the less militant base of society. The 2011 Arabellion in Egypt comes to my mind. As a matter of fact, the protesters forced Mubarak to step down. However, since they were not connected with the population at large, the subsequent elections brought the Sunni Islamist Muslim Brotherhood into power. Founded in the 1920s, the organization had built a broad social network including hospitals, madrassas, and food banks. Now it harvested the seed it had sown a long time ago.

I also felt reminded of the Polish Solidarność movement, albeit that's a completely different context. Solidarność triumphed in the 1980s because it involved large parts of the population. It formed a transversal network in which conservatives and  progressivists, the church and secular liberals cooperated. This network wasn't built in a day, but slowly and steadily. The traumatic experiences of the Polish uprisings in the 19th century certainly contributed to the non-violent resistance and grassroots strategies of Solidarność. In short, this sculpture makes me reflect on the preconditions for the success and sustainability of (militant) protest and activism – a clenched fist expressing high-flown plans, dreams, and visions is worth little without a hand connected to a base that supports it. In the case of this artwork, "base" can be understood literally as well as metaphorically.