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Cigdem Aydemir: Extremist Activity

See how much one woman can smuggle in the name of art.
By Zacha Rosen
April 02, 2012
By Zacha Rosen
April 02, 2012

You’ve probably heard about the anti-burqua mural in Newtown. Artist Cigdem Aydemir was opposed to it and, in fact, lodged a complaint. In the course of her opposition, she attended a public meeting in Erskineville where a man raced up on stage wearing a niquab of his own. Tearing it off, he declared things hidden underneath niquabs were a security issue. (A longer account is here.)

Finding the idea absurd, Aydemir — who had worn a hijab herself for 10 years — has spent the years since that meeting stuffing more and more ridiculous things under black veils in the name of art. Extremist Activity documents her attempts.

For Blue Room a curved, pointed umbrella draped with black cloth walks down a street, looking for conversation, while Extremist Activity (ride) covers a rickshaw completely in black fabric: two game passers-by lift the corner and hop in for a ride. In the Extremist Activity (shop) series, she wanders around a supermarket with a magnificent protrusion (a shopping trolley) under her clothes, absconding it until the cash register.

Other photos show her smuggling a room, a full-size swing set and a stepladder under her clothes, until, finally, Extremist Activity (mount) has her niquab enveloping an enormous climbing sphere in Victoria Park. A pair of eyes — serious, yet ridiculous — stare out from under the needle where her body brings the black fabric to a point.

Last Saturday, Aydemir staged a performance (video) at the gallery where she encouraged the general public to climb underneath a giant, communal niquab, each face peering out of holes in the cloth. (Unfortunately, no more performaces are planned during this show.) The feeling from under the cloth — that this was a giant kids’ game of parachute — perfectly captured the feel of her wider show: pointed, absurd and lots of fun.

Image: Extremist Activity (ride), 2011 by Cigdem Aydemir. Lambda print, 55 x 36.5 cm, performance in Sydney. Photograph by Alex Wisser.

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