One of the most interesting and controversial Turkish artists at the moment is Istanbul-based Extramücadele or Extrastruggle. Since 1997, his art has set out to tell a long and extensive story, an “autobiography of Turkey”. For Turks and everyone who lives in the country, familiar chapters in this story are Turkey’s controversial history and current events on the political scene.
Through Extramücadele’s straightforward language, the viewer is invited to explore Turkey’s collective subconsciousness and the country’s contradictory thoughts, needs, and feelings. “The project works on imaginary demands from imaginary customers. Just like a graphic designer designing a logo for a client, Extrastruggle designs logos for all communities under social pressure,” said the artist. And there are many such communities in today’s Turkey. “The veiled girl who’s not allowed into university, the man frowned upon for speaking Kurdish in public, the Islamist who oppose Europeanization, the army disturbed by Islamist anti-revolutionary desires, leftist intellectuals. These are all imaginary Extrastruggle clients.”
Extramücadele continues: “I don’t do art for or about myself. My art is about us”. With this all-embracing perspective, he aims to define dogmas, fears and imagination. “These are my ‘idea color palette’ used for creating my works.” As a Turkish citizen, seeing the works of Extrastruggle triggers both feelings and new ideas. It opens up a new dimension of social and historical remembrance. This is something Extrastruggle sets out to do. “In my work, I try to deal with society and its consciousness. In a violent and conservative society that marginalizes many people, I never have a hard time finding topics” said the artist.
Extrastruggle’s art usually focuses on issues that are topical and polemical in Turkish society. But this does not mean that the artist positions himself in relation to current issues. “Extrastruggle has no political views and does not take sides. It would be impossible to do so. My works are open to deeper readings.” The piece Taş gibi Anayasa or A Constitution Like Stone (see picture) showcases a girl reading the Constitution of 1982 while sunbathing. Extramücadele: “The girl wears sandals which actually are F16 airplanes. Her long legs attract our attention just like Turkey’s weapons investments.
Extrastruggle has a history of censorship. For example, this year during the First Istanbul Summer Exhibition, Extramücadele’s sculpture untitled “The Contribution of the Eclectic Ottoman Architecture to the Peace and Prosperity in Anatolia or in Conventional Saying to Mustafa Kemal Shrine,” was withdrawn from the exhibition after the Aydınlık daily started a scandal. The exhibition was in the Antrepo 5. It is still unknown today whose decision it was to remove the sculpture. “Issues like censorship, ignorance, aggression and attacks feed Extrastruggle,” said Extramücadele. The art is a virus, which comes along with those kinds of issues and exists in an environment like this.
“When the patient, aka Turkey, will get rid of this virus and cured from its illness, Extrastruggle will be demolished. Only then can the patient think in a normal and healthy way.”