Memed Erdener, an artist based in Istanbul, first began his multifaceted project, “Extrastruggle,” in 1997. As he writes in his manifesto, Extrastruggle is a fictional graphic design firm that creates “ logos for all communities under social pressure… The veiled girl not allowed into the university, the man who is frowned upon for speaking Kurdish in public…”
The artist uses simple, efficient materials: paper, pen, and ink (as well as stancils, stamps, collage, assemblage): he refines his scanned drawings on the computer using Photoshop software. Erdener’s imagery evokes how-to-become-a-citizen manuals from to the formative days of Republic of Turkey in the 1920s and 1930s, as well as popular and populist graphics that appear in magazines, the corporate branding of public companies and political parties, and street signs. He infuses his work with the styke of political cartoons.
Turkey experienced extreme tumult in the 1980s and 1990s, during the years of dictatorship and militarization; at the time, cartoons and comics became a widespread vehicle of political critique. Satire was not immune from censorship, impeachments, prison sentences and buy-outs by big media companies. Erdener’s transition into contemporary art implies artist’s entrance into a realm that is considerably more defenseless than the arena of popular printed matter (Because art is not regarded as fiction, when an artist is radically critical, he gets into trouble. In art, individuality is favored, and the individual is often more vulnerable than a group). Whereas criticality is expected in popular printed matter, and such an expectation of critically makes it a parti pris, opinionated policical editorialization is often limited in contemporary art.
Erdener’s imagery takes the form of both black figures drawn on white paper. The push and pull between the black and white suggests a sense of negotiation. The images are a battle zone of the varied ideologies of contemporary Turkey, which Erdener depicts as a deranged yet introverted society, whose development seems forever arrested at the nation-building stage. As Erdener says, the imagery represents “the never-ending struggle between photograph, form, sign and script.”
Turkish critic Erder Kosova writes, “ When brought together, (Erdener’s) disparate and sometimes contradicting figures start to play against each other and produce a third semantic field that constitutes the ironic critically in Extrastruggle’s works-not unlike the Stituationist technique of detournement. The irony in them aims to displace discourses of various political ortodoxies,mainly of the numerous modes of nationalism that were highly popularized tgroughout the nineties. “ Erdener does not take sides, but puts us in a position to make our own conclusion about his restless images that appear to flee from their support. The drawings present a sense of urgency. Their strange elegance, however, resist the temptation to be consumed immediately.