Nilüfer Şaşmazer

In the Pursuit of “the Daily God” and “Mystical State” – 2014

Extrastruggle, created in 1997 as a project working on ‘imaginary demands from imaginary customers’, shows its new works in its solo show in Gallery NON. The show features works that accentuate the form and the search rather than the political content we are used to seeing.
Participating in numerous group shows, “There is No God in the Sky, Only Birds”, Extrastruggle’s second solo show in the gallery, runs until 21st of May. The show includes canvases and sculptures made of found objects, as well as Ece Canlı’s sound design. We asked our questions to Extrastruggle.

NS: Your second solo show at Gallery NON takes its name (“There is No God in the Sky, Only Birds”) from the famous Phoenix legend. How did you decide to put this legendary figure in the center of your show?

Ex: The reason was a sentence from the Bible. It goes like this: “Those who are free of sin, with their heart full of simplicity and their eyes with wisdom, shall become God’s pigeon and the snake.” I liked the expression “God’s snake”.

NS: In the legend the phoenixes do not like the snakes. Phoenix is a celestial entity whereas the snake is an animal with amputated extremity, a reptile punished by God. What does this dichotomy tell us?

Ex: Remaining transitional, being a ghost, entering every world… collecting rock specimens from different worlds. Recently I came across an interview of Ramin Jahanbegloo in Birikim magazine and I am going to let him explain this for me: “… Marginality, it bears repeating, is not a ‘schism in the soul”. One can share two cultures as part of the same soul. That means that the world of the marginalized is not a challenge to intercultural living. On the contrary, intercultural living will grow if we accept the challenge of marginality. Intercultural transformation presupposes that an individual has to pass through the stage of marginality, which is actually the peripheral position of a person in society. Marginality is usually referred to as a transitional personality that is isolated and unprotected and is searching in vain for an opportunity to take roots in a dominant discourse or culture. But on the contrary, being culturally marginalized describes the experience of a person who has been molded by exposure to two or more cultural traditions. Such a person does not tend to fit perfectly into any one of the cultures to which he or she have been exposed, but may fit comfortably on the edge, in the margins of each, by keeping his/her critical distance from both. This intercultural in-betweenness suggests a form of constructive marginality that is able to move easily and powerfully between different cultural traditions, acting appropriately and feeling at home in each.” (Source:

NS: Another dichotomy is constructed on Fuzuli and Orwell. How are they linked up?

Ex: This is related to the conflict between reason and heart.

NS: On its website, Extrastruggle published a text on “Intrastruggle” in 2013. It was said: “Unfortunately the creature called human is not capable of possessing the whole knowledge. Maybe the struggle should be inside, not outside.” How did your change perspective from humorous works with minimal visuality and reflecting Turkey’s collective subconscious to those more personal ones? Does this text and show reflect a turning point for Extrastruggle?

Ex: I prefer to continue with more quotations: I tried to explain this process to myself by quoting Ponge, Sartre and Jung’s sentences: “The paranoid (intrastruggle) excludes the emotions that bother him from his ego, whereas the neurotic (extrastruggle) inhales the outer world, swallows it and transforms the outer world into the object of its unconscious fantasies. Intrastruggle reflects; Extrastruggle internalizes. Intrastruggle’s reflection is a process of solidification; Extrastruggle’s internalization is a process of dilution, softening, smoothing.” It might sound a little bit complicated but what I am trying to do for a while now is this. Maybe.

NS: Although there are works with personal and mythical references, we also see some of your politically engaged works such as “Başçatal”, “Biz Hep Seyrettik”, “Boktan Bir Devlet Rüyası”… How are the daily political worries and the pursuit of the self/God connected?

Ex: It is about the pursuit of the Daily God and the mystical state. I quote Italo Calvino here: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”

NS: Many oriental motifs can be found in the show, is this new for you?

Ex: I am interested in ornamentation these days. I like the therapeutic effect of the motifs. I realized I missed drawing without knowing the sense of what I draw. I wanted it to ‘flow’ as much as it could without giving it a thought. I tried to produce the works in the show without planning but with love, slowly, maybe sometimes not taking it seriously. I wanted them to be what I really am.

NS: Beside the canvases there are many sculptures made with found objects. Do you attribute a special function to these? Are there objects you are obsessed with (there are many eyeglasses for example)?

Ex: There is a world which carries different meaning then that what the objects represent. It is a world beyond objects. From a bird to a snake, or vice versa. In the production process the talented iron master Azat Demirer helped me a lot. The works were born in his studio. If it wasn’t for him, this show would not exist. As for eyeglasses, while I was striving with them I always had this sentence in my head: “Look beyond through me, not at me”. It is about the light passing through the object or the living, not being just reflected. I read a similar sentence in Marshall McLuhan’s “Gutenberg Galaxy”. It is like saying “do not look at me but see beyond through what I have created”.

NS: Extrastruggle used to be a platform bringing together photography, form, signs and writing; in this show you add the sound to all these. How did the sound installations contribute to the show?

Ex: Ece Canlı did the sound design of my short isolated vocal animation entitled “Rose Garden” (Gül Bahçesi - 2013). We met through the film. Ece is very talented, -I entrusted her with the show. With her work Ece breathed soul into the ambiance of the gallery. I think her sound designs bind the whole thing together.

Translation: Nazım Dikbaş