Refusing Movement/S: Reflections on the “Intra-Actions” of Current Social Movements and Art

Anybody who stands still in a forward-moving crowd is just as big a hindrance as if he moved against the crowd. (Robespierre in Büchner’s Danton’s Death)


On 17 June 2013, the very day the Turkish government prohibited demonstrations in Istanbul in reaction to the occupation of Gezi Park, Erdem Gündez, a Turkish artist and activist, became, what is now known as one of the most prominent “figures” of the Gezi Park movement, namely the “standing man.” Simply standing in the middle of Taksim square, facing the Atatürk Cultural Centre, not moving, not shouting, not doing anything but standing there for hours. At first his presence went unnoticed, but after some time more and more people not only were interested but also joined Gündez until the police banished them from the square and arrested a number of people. The “standing man” was a performance as well as a political act, criticising the prohibition of demonstrations, demonstrating without actually “demonstrating” in a classical way. Similar to Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to” the “standing man” refuses to move. Sharing a similar immobility with many characters in Beckett’s work, the standing man also creates a territory, changing the space around him; “in their trash can or on their bench, Beckett’s characters stake out a territory” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 503). Like a standing wave or a wheel that turns so fast it looks as though it does not turn at all, the “standing man” is characterised by intensity and not by speed or extensity.

The activists squatting public squares do something very similar. In building tents, in actually living on the square, they don’t follow the rules set by the government; they don’t behave as they are told to. They are not passengers, passing the street; rather, they stand still and therefore block traffic and disturb the public policy, thereby staking out a territory. Again their actions are not characterised by speed but rather by intensity, as showcased by a slogan the Spanish 15M movement created: “We’re going slow, because we’re going far.” Modifying this slogan one could propose: we’re refusing movement, because we are a movement.

In the first part of my paper I will discuss the “standing man” and other artistic projects and their manifold “intra-actions” (Barad and Kleinmann 2012) with social movements. Drawing on these artistic practices as processes of intensity—a resisting and at the same time creative force—I will argue against current popular theories of acceleration, which promote speed over intensity. In the second part I want to explore the shared processes of “fabulation” in the “intra-actions” of political art and political practices and to what degree these fabulations are nonutopian attempts to constitute what Deleuze calls “the people to come.”

Creating not only new modes of thinking but also new modes of acting politically, art plays an important role in current social movements and the creation of new strategies of protest. As Deleuze states in the famous interview with Toni Negri: “Art is resistance.”


Barad, Karen, and Adam Kleinmann. 2012. “Intra-actions”. Karen Barad interviewed by Adam Kleinmann. Mousse 34: An issue about dOCUMENTA 13, 9 June: 76–81. Also available at

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Artistic Research, the University, and the Trajectory of a Deleuzian Motif

This presentation seeks to problematise a certain appropriation of Deleuzian devices within the rhetorical field of artistic research, with particular reference to the reinstatement of “Art” the renewed attention to the specificity of the aesthetic, and an associated metaphorics of exceptionalism, revolt, resistance, refusal, and flight. This problematisation is not proposed as an act of delegitimation with respect to a given “reading” of Deleuze, but rather as an intervention into the field of operations across art-philosophy. In the wake of the perceived failure of institutional critique and the politics of representation in artistic research programmes, the paper asks, What are the critical alternatives to bourgeois revolt and aesthetic exceptionalism for artistic research conducted within the precincts of the contemporary university? What might the turn to Deleuze offer in this regard?

Beside the Point: Where the In-Act of Activism Lurks

Thunderbolts explode between different intensities, but they are preceded by an invisible, imperceptible dark precursor, which determines their path in advance but in reverse, as though intagliated.
Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, London and New York: Continuum, 1994, 119.

The problem is determined by singular points which correspond to series, but the question, by an aleatory point which corresponds to an empty square on the mobile element.
Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990, 56.

The possible implies becoming—the passage from one to the other takes place in the infra-thin.
Marcel Duchamp, Notes. Edited and translated by Paul Matisse. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1983, 22.

In this paper, I will explore the force of seriality of the “infrathin,” a concept brought forth by Marcel Duchamp, in light of the notions of both the dark precursor and the aleatory point. Considering the complex durations at the heart of activist practice (from the emergency of the moment to the deadlock of burnout and depression), I will inquire into the ways in which an ethico-aesthetic practice can reorient the thought of the political at the heart of the act.