Akasya Asıltürkmen

Nothing New for Art But It’s New for Me – 2014

“There is no doubt that birds are one of the most suitable elements of narrative to transmit the sentiment of approaching, and in fact, reaching the divine ideal by shedding, departing from the material world and materiality, ascending and becoming celestial – this is the essence of the thought of tasawwuf. The birds have to exert all their strength with unbreakable will to pass through the seven valleys, the valleys of ‘Quest’, ‘Love’, ‘Knowledge’, ‘Detachment’, ‘Unity’, ‘Wonderment’ and ‘Annihilation’ and each has a story. Only if they pass through these valleys will they reach Simorgh, the guide that is on the other side of Mount Qaf. When those who survive reach their destination, they see that Simorgh was nothing but a reflection, a mirror; Simorgh was the birds themselves, because God is inside those who manage to reach God” wrote Hasan Anamur many years ago, when discussing ‘The Conference of the Birds’, a play directed by Işıl Kasapoğlu.

When we first met with Memed Erdener and I realized that he was exploring birds for his new exhibition, I immediately recommended the story of Simorgh. It seemed as if it overlapped with his quest. I was not mistaken. He has prepared a wonderful exhibition, joining the skies with birds, the earth with snakes, the mind with intelligence, George Orwell with Fuzuli, and the external extrastruggle with the internal intrastruggle. You can visit the exhibition at Gallery NON until the end of May and slip through the door that Extrastruggle has left open.

How was Extrastruggle born?

That’s an old story. It felt absurd to write my name under the things I was doing. I wasn’t doing something about myself. I was trying to do something about what I saw around me, about problems, something provocative that touched dogma, had high energy, with some graphic design, shapes that were semi-pictograms, ghosts. To severe things from the worlds they exist in and release them into different worlds, to startle their media, make up other worlds, create Frankensteins. I wanted all this to have a name. This was a struggle, a struggle carried out with pencil and paper. A friend of mine commented, saying, “What you are doing is an extra-struggle”, and since then, I have used this name. Yet now I find myself a bit bored with this name.

“Extrastruggle is not political” –that is what you once said. What did you want people to think?

I must have meant, “I am impartial”. I have tried not to say, “I am the spokesperson of an idea, I am on your side, and look, this is what I do”. I don’t know whether I have managed to stick to that, but I can say that I have tried to maintain my position on a knife’s edge.

Where did your struggle begin?

I have a few schools, they are, respectively, my family, the great humour magazine of the 90s, Deli, and the Hafriyat art group, within which I learned the meaning of the local. I was five years old when my mother took me to this exhibition. Three was a large painting of a cat at the exhibition, really quite large. This was a hyperrealist cat. Finely painted, right down to every hair of its fur. My mother told me to take a close look at the cat. Then I realized that the cat had five paws! How could a cat, into which so much work had gone for days, have five paws? Was this painter not paying any attention at all. I was annoyed. Then my mother said, “That is what art is. A place where you can willingly, deliberately make mistakes”. I think I had a moment of enlightenment right there. I love my mother and that memory very much.

Then you worked at the legendary Deli magazine...

What to put on the week’s cover, what to feature on page three, Deli was a wonderful editorial school. Can Barslan, Gani Müjde, Metin Üstündağ, Kemal Kenan Ergen, Sencer, Tan Cemal. I was 21 years old and I was paying my rent thanks to the magazine. 4 years went by like a dream. But my real school of art is Hafriyat. A learned a whole bagful of things from Murat Akagündüz, Mustafa Pancar, Antonio Cosentino and Hakan Gürsoytrak. Then we founded Hafriyat Karaköy. We did a load of exhibitions, had fun, got excited, shared, made a lot of mistakes, experienced something real and went our separate ways. In other words, a real adventure. Then, in 2010, I began to work with Gallery NON, with Derya Demir. I hadn’t worked with a gallery before.

It is like an empty vessel, you first fill it up, then pour out its contents. You have frequently used mythological signs and symbols...

Mythological stories help us understand life easier. Mythology also renders them pictorial. Symbols, miniatures and patterns take shape... I am in awe of patterns. Stars, snakes, birds... They are everywhere, in the mythologies of Native Americans, Aztecs, India, Anatolia. Meaning shapes form. When one looks at these fırms, after having read a bit of Jung, too, then the richness begins. Life is beautiful with books, pencil and paper. Love lasts longer with knowledge.

You use a great variety of materials. Broken glass, wood, plastic and metal forks, old photographs, lenses of eyeglasses, walking sticks... It appears as if you have a spiritual relationship with objects...

This has been a different exhibition for me... Up until now, I was generally interested in the outside, in the way the state addressed the people, the practices of statesmen and the nonsense they made up for propaganda... This time I changed the input. My field of interest was filled with sentiments, what objects made me feel, the permeability of spiritual concepts regarding materiality, the everyday and the state swapping places, God becoming everyday and the mystification of the state. I tried to find the other world of objects. I wanted them to go outside their visible meanings in this world, I experimented with that. I think I more entertaining period is beginning for me. I must also add that if it wasn’t for the talented ironsmith Azat Demirer, this exhibition would not have been realized. Thanks to him, we transformed objects into objects of art, with different meanings. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Azat once again.

“Happiness can exist only in acceptance”, George Orwell...

The titles of the paintings and sculptures are from George Orwell, Fuzuli, Italo Calvino and the young poet Müge Weigl. I tried to create works departing from sentences I read, sentences that had stuck in my mind. Sometimes, those sentences fell upon the works I made. The sound design of the exhibition was created by Ece Canlı, combining the works in the exhibition. She possesses the ability to tie things together with invisible stitches. She executed her miraculous touch in my short film Rose Garden* as well.

Actually, the name of the exhibition was ‘Don’t look at me, look through me to see beyond’. I had that sentence in my mind when I made these paintings and sculptures. I read it in McLuhan’s book, ‘In Gothic architecture light does not fall on people or objects, it passes through them.’ So with this exhibition, I, too, wanted not to say, “look, I am showing you that problem there”, but to say, “I have done something, look at it and go wherever you wish from here”. That is perhaps the most important sentence I can say about this exhibition. Take a look through the door and go wherever you wish. That, of course, is nothing new in art, but it’s new for me. Then I changed the name of the exhibition two days before the opening: ‘There Is No God In The Sky Only Birds’. And I think it was good that I did.

  • To watch the 2-minute short film “Rose Garden” -> http://vimeo.com/67204421