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.