Tank Man

During the summer of 2013, the Call of the Mall art event took place in the Hoog Catharijne shopping center here in Utrecht. A variety of art works in multiple mediums were placed throughout the mall. The Celestial Tea Pot, which still stands on the roof of part of the mall, was and is a popular piece, but there was one piece that really created a lot of interest, at times blocking much of the walkway in which it was placed.

Tank Man, a lifelike sculpture by Fernando Sánchez Castillo, refers to the unknown man who stood down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in China in 1989 after the Chinese military had come in to shut down protests. Although a few names were bandied about at the time, it seems that there is no reliable information about the man’s identity and fate.
Tank ManAlthough we don’t know what became of the man dubbed Tank Man, we do know what happened to the statue. It was purchased by the Centraal Museum, where it now has a home. I never got to see it while it was on display in the mall, but I did finally get to see it on my most recent visit to the museum. It’s a powerful piece when you stop and think about what this man did, especially at that particularly violent and repressive moment in time.

The video footage and photos that made it out of China are hard to forget. The close-up photos like the one by photographer Jeff Widener are staggering, but it was one I saw a few days ago that really made me think more deeply about it all than I have in many years. The wider angle shows the scope of what this man was up against. To see the tiny figure of the the man standing against at least 20 tanks just on the road, not to mention the numerous other grouped tanks in the background is incredibly moving and thought-provoking. It’s hard not to put yourself in his shoes and wonder if you would have been able to take such a stand. I think being able to come face to “face” with the Tank Man via the statue is what helps to make it such a powerful piece, because you do suddenly find yourself face to face with your thoughts about what you’d be willing to stand up for and against.
Tank ManI’ve been nominated for the Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blogs competition and would appreciate your vote. Just click on the button below and then click the circle next to A Flamingo in Utrecht and cast your vote. Dankjewel!
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2 thoughts on “Tank Man

  1. Ok…when I saw this post, that picture made me laugh a lot…I thought that was a real guy…..ha, ha, ha….like that episode of “Sex and the City” when they go to the gallery to watch some girl who just sits there for days?!?!?! Anyway……glad that is a statue and not some poor guy standing in that position for days! 🙂

    • When the statue first went up in the mall, lots of people had the same reaction. Plenty of people thought he was a living statue. Then, when they finally realized he wasn’t real, they started going up and touching him. Some of the impact of the statue was lost once they had to put up a rope cordon around the statue. 🙂

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