Extrastruggle Brings a Symbolic Turkish Worldview to VOLTA Basel

Featured at Galeri Zilberman’s VOLTA11 Basel booth is work by enigmatic Turkish artist Extrastruggle. While the project, founded in 1997, was often thought to be a collective, it is actually the brainchild of one man—Memed Erdener. As an extension of his recent manifesto, in which he describes his body of work as a “neverending struggle between photograph, form, sign, and script,” Extrastruggle presents intuitive, mysterious works that draw on a range of influences from Islamic ornamentation and calligraphy, to Jungian psychology, to Situationist philosophy.

Formerly employed as a graphic designer, Extrastruggle brings the clean lines and conceptual poignancy of his design practice to his works of art. Moving away from earlier satirical and illustrative reactions to Turkey’s cultural climate, his VOLTA presentation includes sculpture, paintings, and digital imagery that offer Dadaist solutions to understanding contemporary crises, both personal and political. Recognizable objects are removed from their original context, altered, and added to— inspiring new associations.

Here, surrealist sculptures are made from everyday materials remixed to construct symbolic narratives about power, violence, ideology, and personal agency. A pair of eyeglasses with funnel-shaped lenses could illustrate a myopic viewpoint of the world. However, a closer reading of its title, The Truth and the Public (2015), suggests that the contraption is used to clarify reality, in an environment oversaturated by media and rhetoric. Spirit and Matter (2015) castrates the power of a pistol by replacing its body with a beautiful and innocuous piece of driftwood. 

Other two-dimensional works feature bold graphic logos that fuse contemporary imagery with ancient stylistic details to create a new iconography that is current and connected to cultural history. Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure (2015) depicts a hungry mouth devouring another’s tears in gestures—solidified in iron—recalling Islamic calligraphy. I Remember (2015) shows  skulls looking longingly towards the heavens, referencing the mythology of constellations and wisdom of ancient societies. 

Extrastruggle’s viewpoint is, in many ways, uniquely Turkish, but is also relevant on an international scale. The recurring themes—clarifying perceptions, the absurdity of violence, and the power of the individual—resonate globally, pointing in a direction of empowerment and social responsibility.


—K. Sundberg


Visit Galeri Zilberman at VOLTA11 Basel 2015, Booth C-07, June 15–20.


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