Memed Erdener

talks to Extrastruggle – 2010

ME: I would like to begin with football. The league has kicked off, as you well know. Have you realized that when the big teams lose, men, even from the lower classes, do not feel relieved, but get anxious. The defeat of the strong by the weak is frightening for all social classes, it makes no difference, rich or poor. Why is it so?

Extrastruggle: Now, allow me… Man’s arse is full of other people’s shit. We carry other people’s shit around with us. The only way to get away from this is to become someone else. But then of course the I comes to a sticky end.

ME: I will swiftly move on to the finance sector. I read it in Forbıs margazine, “a sharp decline has been observed in the count of harmful bacteria in the shit of people whose economic income has increased.”

EX: Very interesting! And this is what they told me at the bank: “Small but positive mobility has been detected in the credit card debt of poor people who eat the shit of the rich while fresh.”

ME: So what is the plan? Will it go on like this? How will we know when it ends? Is there a clue? What was our target in the first place? Does anyone remember? Do you, for instance, remember with what aim you set out in the first place?

EX: In making something, we actually become part of the thing we are making. The ancients give the art of marbling as example when explaining the duality of the universal will and the particular, personal will. Your personal will distributes the paint, but the rest belongs to the universal will. For instance, a dog without a tail survives, but a tail without a dog, never.

ME: A good example. To divide personal will into two and transport it from the individual to the creator. And to alleviate to a certain extent the responsibility of the individual. Interesting. It has quite an otherworldly feel, and it is a genuinely new point of view. So, have you come across something like that in real life, like the anecdote you just shared for instance?

EX: It must have been last year, I was walking down from Nişantaşı towards Cizre… when suddenly a kindhearted mother who had stolen a poor prostitute’s money passed by me.

ME: As different and unparallel Nişantaşı and Cizre are… the situation between a mother and a child is the same. I see freedom when I look at children. Although I can’t understand their interest in collecting spoils. Collecting spoils, and freedom, they remind me of Europe…

EX: Since you’ve mentioned Europe, I now remember. The genetically modified tomato said: “I now realize that for years I have nurtured a scorpion in my bosom”. Hahahaha!..

ME: Tell me, what is popopo? I keep seeing it at your exhibitions and everywhere.

EX: Popopo: Politic+Pornographic+Poetic is a media formula. As you know TV is full of the exploitation of violence and emotions. This is pornographic broadcast politics. On the other hand, the way the viewer falls in love with violence is eye-wateringly poetic. Forget about popopo and listen to this, scientists have recently declared that they are of much more benefit when they don’t work for humanity but for companies and the development of commerce. They continued thus: “Our self-respect has increased since science, art and technology has entered into the service of commerce.”

For example, I once had a dream… It was dark, I was running away from something in the forest, never looking back. All my bad deeds and meannesses had become ghosts and a blind devil, chasing after me. But then, the voice of a giant woman wearing a black turban echoed in the depths of the forest: “Centuries later, idleness will return in a cool fashion to cities, street corners, kitchens and bedrooms…” That’s when I suddenly awoke. It was, of course, a pastoral and religious awakening in every sense.

ME: But the recent reports I have received state that “encyclopedias and pedagogy will be taken out of the service of commerce and will begin to work for the family.”

EX: My friend, does the solution lie in some form of tabloid communism? Or, to illustrate, to dwell on the subject further… A Communist Tabloid! Carla Bruni or Naomi or Kate Moss hang out with miners. And a lot changes. I have positioned the concept of “beauty” as the saviour if you’ve realized. In this theory, the gap between the classes is bridged by beauty. For instance, in this context, the Kelebek supplement of Hürriyet newspaper could be conceived as a communist and socially transformative publication.

ME: So what is it, who is it that the streets and the football terraces, the night, the circumcision feasts and the smell of sweat in public transport vehicles and the thousands of males that fill up Taksim Square at new year need? You know who that is? A Female Tyrant! We need a great and powerful female tyrant. That is what all Anatolia needs.

EX: Hold it! News text on the TV: From now on, a new product will be designed only when the need arises, and only those who need it will go and buy it. Gosh!

ME: I was looking out the window right now. Do you see, right there, in the courtyard of the high-school? Come and have a look. A 13-year old school girl. Standing erect at the headmaster’s command, ATTENTION! Her eyes are sharp as an eagle’s. Look carefully! You see?

EX: How can I not! As someone said, “Such ignorance is achieved only through schooling.”

Extrastruggle hangs out of the window and shouts:

EX: You ignorant man! ATTENTION!

They sit back down in their armchairs, and after looking around idly for a while…

ME: A stomach full of beer rather than a head full of ideas. That stomach unravels the tongue, and one blurts out things he daren’t say when sober.

EX: Do you realize it is impossible to use the fonts on an Apple laptop to design Ahmet Haşim’s beautiful book, its language built with bridges extending into the past and the future? What is that thing that still exists in the depths of a provincial sign-painter’s memory, but not on the font menu of laptops? Perhaps, two generations down the line, the people of the future will gaze vacantly at our names written in the Latin alphabet inscribed on our gravestones.

ME: Shall we speak a little about the east and the west. East and west. Rich and poor. How do you see it?

EX: Ooooh… Our topic. The Great Powers, they saw the East with rich soil and empty pockets stand naked before them, and approached it without hesitation. The East fainted at once. The recumbent East saw a great cross in its dream. On the left of the cross was inscribed the word POVERTY, and on the left WEALTH, at the top it said REASON and at the foot of the cross stood the word FEAR.

ME: My friend Antonio Cosentino told me this, and it stuck in my mind. How cool is it that Istanbul street artists are producing text, stencils, and graffiti on Istanbul walls in English?

EX: We shouldn’t forget that viruses and bacteria enter cells by piercing the mucous membrane. Their first task is to put the cells in debt to one another. And I should also remind you that you must haphazardly take plenty of broad-spectrum antibiotics without doctor’s advice. Recommend them to others. Take them and make others take them. Make them swallow them without water. Or a further topic, I can’t pass over it, if you are suffering from tympanic membrane tension, if inflammation has filled up the middle ear with pus, you are in the first stage of minor resistance.

ME: ???... I love animals a lot. Stray cats and dogs for instance. Have you realized, cats and dogs in the street do not carry plastic bags. They don’t stock up on things. They haven’t got fridges to keep their food in, or health insurance. How come they are so confident? Or, why don’t they possess the FEAR we have been loaded with?

EX: Let’s go back to the “Communist Tabloid” then: “Deep-freezes full of munchies are the redemption of the hungry in the streets! The mutiny of deep-freezes against injustice. Communism under the leadership of the deep-freeze! Now!”

ME: My sweet grandmother used to always warn me, “The Devil prays in slippers left askew. Lay out your slippers properly my child,” my angel used to say. I always loved her very much.

EX: Of course, the “Communist Tabloid” must make peace with Islam as well, for instance like this: A TV ad, announcing the good news of a holiday promotion: “Upon entering the new year, at each use of your credit card, at the exact moment when the card passes through the machine, say DESTUR (Make way!). You won’t be charged interest on your credit card.”

ME: Sorry, I missed that. I got carried away by thoughts of my grandmother. And that took me into the past, to the deep well of memories. Do you know, the PAST is not only behind the lived moment, but also within this present moment. The FUTURE on the other hand, doesn’t exist. It is an old wives’ tale, a figment of the imagination. When you plan for the future, you distance yourself from the PRESENT. The PRESENT is often meaningless, anyway. Or it needs a memory, or a plan. The PRESENT is a small hilltop. It is difficult to stand atop it, but nevertheless possible for some of us. But the passing of a single thought through our head means we can’t remain in that glorious and meaningless place. We can’t keep our balance on top of the hill of the PRESENT.

EX: I don’t know… Have you heard, a Tobleron factory will be opening in Diyarbakır.

ME: Drop it, and tell me which you prefer, accurate news, or good news?

EX: This is what Sheikh Bedrettin says: “The truth cannot be revealed to the public. If it is revealed, they either lose their way, or accuse the one who reveals the truth to them. The TRUTH and the PUBLIC must be overseen separately and then adjusted to each other. But perhaps it is best to adjust the public to the truth.”

ME: Has he died, Sheikh Bedrettin?

EX: Indeed, he has. We will all taste from that alembic one day. That too is an adventure. The Adventure After Death: Imagine a space-ship shaped like a coffin. It accelerates to the speed of light, lying there, rotting, dissolving. Travelling at the speed of light towards unknown galaxies… through the underground.

A deep silence prevails, and they both begin to think of death…

EX: The Devil will pester the repenter. Death at the speed of light, travels through planets and every level of the universe, through the underground.

ME: It sleeps. In the depths… In the subconscious pits of the country. It sleeps alone in thousands of appalling pits into which no one wants to descend, or to see the contents.

EX: What are you talking about?

ME: The Alphabet Revolution, 1928. The deepest depth of our collective unconscious. Nothing comes before it. Darkness.

They fall silent…

EX: Have you heard that the competition for reading out the National Anthem by heart was won by Marina, a Greek student from a Greek School in Beyoğlu? The provincial contest was on February 17. I wonder what happened.

ME: Can we get back to “language.” That great blessing.

EX: Blessing, what a beautiful word that it is. Look now… We have to write, note down all the words, sayings, the unique figures of speech and exclamations our grandmothers and grandfathers use. Because language is our common miracle. Then we have to look to the street, to shopkeepers, transvestites, anarchists and the lumpenproletariat. See what they are coming up with for the language of tomorrow. Right now. What are they making up? Because all the visual arts, literature and humour and in fact, advertising, the finance sector and marketing, it’s all a common tongue.

This 100-gram, lively and brisk, pink piece of meat in our mouth. It flips and flops like a fish on a hook, it struggles, it wheedles. We must not forget that in the beginning was the word.

ME: No to education! Yes to discipline!

EX: Can you hear the music playing outside?.. (a beautiful Münir Nurettin song is playing) Aaah, the silent night that shall begin / when we pass through the great door whose wide wings swing open into pitch black space / and behind which the sun never rises.

ME: “At the Horizon of the Night of No Return”, it cuddles and warms me inside like an old angel from a hundred years ago. I love you, Extrastruggle.

EX: I love you too, my friend. Well, never mind, we’re doing fine… There’s the compassion of the empire in this song. Along with the melancholy of an empty library, full of thousands of books written in Turkish with the Arab alphabet. Bülent Ersoy’s version is the best. The most profound. Sung by a body that gave itself up.

ME: I wish that life were like it is at this precise moment. Hey, tell me, who is in charge of the main valves while everyone sleeps at night? Who distorts our settings?

EX: I would like to respond with a little story, because you used a nice metaphor in asking it:

The ship’s course arrives from headquarters in a sealed envelope. The captain tears open the envelope. The route is mapped out on the piece of paper with all the bearings. “Fuck me if I follow your course,” says the captain. He slowly releases from his hand the letter that came from headquarters in a sealed envelope out of the open window of the bridge… Fortunately, since we are in a nice story, the same breeze brings loads of beautiful dreams through the same open window… What else could the captain ask for, his ship beneath his feet, his dreams in his head, the wind in his sails. He now knows he has nothing to do with the sealed envelope from headquarters. From now on, the captain will not define a trip as good or bad. The trip is ahead of him, stripped of all attributes. Is our captain aware that he possesses a kind of happiness that very few people are granted? Let’s hope so. And his ship is very beautiful, too.

The wheelhouse of many ships is full of overflowing flowerpots. Do you remember them? Can you picture them? You must have seen them. A garden from Eden itself… Captains seem to have settled in those wheelhouses with such confidence that it is as if they will never move, rather than set out on a trip. I mean settling within the trip itself. To live within the journey… A captain that can go everywhere without going anywhere, in a moving ship, travelling somewhere.

That is what art is like, my friend.

After a sweet, peaceful and happy silent interval…

ME: I’m happy my nightlife is over. Mina Urgan also wrote in her book that she felt more peaceful when her sex life was over.

EX: The organs in our body move around a lot more than we think they do. The brain and genitals can change places a few times during the day. Expert medical scientists conducting research on organs changing places within our body reached the conclusion that: Some people’s brains are in their dicks.

And when their brains are in their dicks, two quite distant sentiments are brought together: The excitement of a gorilla and the regret of a philosopher. An excited philosopher, or a regretful gorilla? It’s hard to answer. What to say when you are left with a regretful gorilla after having made love to an excited gorilla? This is the answer the man with his brains in his dick has to answer.

ME: Let’s talk a little about “Infantilism”. For instance, a sweet 3-year old child, shoots with his toy gun. The sound he makes with his mouth as he shoots is: "PUF!" The devices of infantilism are Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings, Avatar, Batman...

EX: If we had a real parliament, the shopkeepers, workers, unemployed, anarchists, gays, lesbians, transvestites, lumpenproletariat and the indifferent would be there. (Extrastruggle suddenly stands up and shouts) Heyyy! Those who cannot find in life what they are looking for, losers, the downtrodden, the wretched, the psychologically disturbed and of course, the ugly and especially the poor! On to the parliament!

The Great Powers: The handsome, the fit, the seductive, the beautiful, the totally revamped. The new powers of occupation. The new Great Powers were borne out of the zest and pleasure of occupying the shopkeepers, workers, unemployed, women, anarchists, lumpenproletariat and the indifferent. If you see someone who is about to fuck, or has fucked just now, but will never agree to fuck with you, be assured my friend, you are up against a member of The Great Powers. A gang war between The Great Powers and the ugly and the poor. This war will begin simultaneously in dark neighbourhoods and business plazas.

A sexy unemployed person, or a highly provocative poor person. A psychologically disturbed person, but seductive, a destitute person, but defiant. Shantytowns built on river beds, where floods kill many at every torrential rain, are not enough for the gigantic erection of The Great Powers to explode.

ME: Oof! Give me a break. We have digressed too much. After all, this interview is for the pages of a graphic design magazine. A question for you: What are books where the author’s name is printed bigger than the name of the book trying to say to the reader?

EX: Hmmm… The inversely proportional relation between the author and the written text. The author that grows with what he writes. The book that shrinks as the author grows. The fault in this fight to decide “who is more important and bigger”, the author or the book, of course, falls on the marketing police.

Allow me to skip to a different topic. Look at Istanbul from the top floor of Safir, the skyscraper in Levent. See the city slaughtered by ignorance, avarice and aggression. With a bird’s eye view of Istanbul from the 56th floor of Safir, you will see how Istanbul has been occupied again by the great concrete. If I were to rename Maslak and its environs, I would like to call it The Blocks of Yahya Kemal’s Slaughter. “Yesterday I looked at you from a hilltop, beloved Istanbul.”

Istanbul was saved from the occupation forces that arrived in 1918, but following Yahya Kemal’s death, concrete was poured over the city. The Victory of the Great Concrete! The ghost mass of concrete poured over Yahya Kemal and his city Istanbul, he wrote that a lifetime is worth loving just one neighbourhood of it, now waiting to be demolished by an earthquake.

ME: This comes again from Yahya Kemal: “When the world disappears from sight, the dream within a dream begins in one of one thousand and one nights.”

EX: Such harmony. Do you know that the children in Alibeyköy who sell water when the traffic lights turn red, ride on the swings and slide down the slides when the lights turn green. Even a pole with a red and green light can act as a shepherd for these slave kids. I call this the street necessity of discipline without parents. It is perhaps necessary to design soothing, pedagogic traffic lights for children at these points.

ME: Education is not, but discipline is a must!

EX: Yes, you said that once before. A hero that will save all children. Where is that hero? And when will that hero arrive? At which part of the country will the hero appear, or in which city? The mindset that has made schools so horrible, that has transformed them into grey prisons or detention centres, will be held accountable by the hero, in front of the children. The headmasters will be made to swear, in front of the children, that they “will do no more shepherding and that every day is playtime.” The breeze of playtime will blow in the hearts of these small people, all these fabulous children, all these tiny angels. They will become themselves and nothing else.

ME: Headmasters, math teachers who only give zeros, pupil-beating PE teachers, headmistresses fixated with neck trims, sadists that enjoy giving zeros at oral exams. We will save the children from your hands.

After a long silence, a very beautiful female singer appears on TV. The video clip is very sexy.

EX: In the age that we live, human beings are attracted by objects rather than one another. What a nice car.

ME: Problems between men and women stem neither from the man nor the woman. It is the objects that are the problem.

EX: Listen now. If my father were a government minister, and I were the head of a company winning tenders offered by that ministry, I would have a huge Turkish flag made with the money I make. Or if my wife’s father was the mayor of Istanbul, and I were the head of my construction companies, I could pour concrete everywhere, Istanbul my cauldron and I, the ladle.

ME: What you say is actually possible, we have to think bigger, and of course, our father may have to be a bit more active.

EX: I could then marry a blond singer. We could perform the umrah, the holy pilgrimage. When we return to our country, she would decide to cover herself of her own accord, my TV star, singer, blond wife.

ME: Everything could have been so beautiful, so profitable, and so profound.

EX: Or perhaps, we should publish a newspaper that exposes one by one those who attack our holy values?

ME: We made a mistake somewhere, but God willing it’s not too late.

EX: Last night… guess what happened! We left the machine gun running before we went to bed with the missus, and had a nice and comfy sleep. Ratatatatatata!... Then last night, again with the missus, drenched in sweat, wandering between Libido and Militarism… we discovered the leopard skin patterned combat outfit.

Again after a long bout of silence…

EX: My friend, this is how I would like to bring this interview to a close. With these beautiful lines from Lautréamont, I think they describe us well: “Our horses were galloping along the shore, as if they fled the eyes of men”

Translation: Nazım Dikbaş