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Creative Paddington: Cigdem Aydemir

By Lola Pinder


Cigdem Aydemir is a Sydney-based performance and installation artist. Much of her work investigates the history and social politics surrounding her Australian-Muslim identity, in particular looking at the veiled woman in gender and religious politics.

Aydemir's public performance piece Extremist Activity addresses the discussion of the burka and niqab. Spurred on by the idea of these forms of female dress as a security threat, Aydemir’s performances have seen her hide people, obfuscate shopping trolleys, bicycles, swing sets, and even cover a kids playground climbing sphere under her niqab. The public was welcomed to continue to climb on the sphere, as a way to demystify the ‘other’, and allow outsiders to physically inhabit the Muslim female body politic. 

In 2013 Aydemir won the Redlands Konica Minolta Art Prize, in the Emerging Artist category, for her work Bombshell. This single channel video parodies Marilyn Monroe’s famous scene from The Seven Year Itch in that white dress. Aydemir playfully recreates the scene, instead wearing a black burka, while the soundtrack includes the sounds of distant bombs. The artist explores the social implications of dress and uses humour to interrogate the scrutiny and control of women’s choices in the fear-driven west.

In July 2014, Aydemir created the public work Plastic Histories for the Vryfestival in Bloemfontein, South Africa.  This commission was part of the Programme for Innovation in Artform Development (PIAD), for the support of long-term interdisciplinary research, cross-cultural engagement, and development for the arts. The project saw public monuments of President MT Stayn and President CR Swart at the University of the Free State (UFS) main campus covered in pink shrink-wrap. Covering these male public figures in pink plastic-wrap commemorated the contribution of women in post-Apartheid South Africa, reflecting of the gendered histories represented in public spaces,. The project also included an Augmented Reality application as well as an exhibition at the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery of digital prints, video works and pink-plastic-wrapped busts from the UFS permanent art collection.

The app was created in collaboration with Sydney artist Warren Armstrong. It was free to download and allowed users to engage with numerous other monuments around the city of Bloemfontein.  These public sculptures would appear, when viewed through a tablet or smart phone, as with the physically shrink wrapped works, pink. The app also included audio recordings of Afrikaans, Sotho, Zhosa and English poetry. With this app, Aydemir created an accessible virtual platform wherein public spaces may acknowledge alternative histories that can shape and mould modern social identity.

Aydemir also made the catalogue for this show free and accessible online through the digital publishing platform, Issuu. 

Aydemir completed a Bachelor in Design and Art Education and a Graduate Certificate in Sculpture Performance and Installation between 2003 and 2010. In 2013 Aydemir was the recipient of the Freedman Foundation Travelling Arts Scholarship and was exhibited in the award’s annual show at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery in Paddington. In 2012 she received the Edna Ryan Award for Creative Feminism as well as Highly Commended for the John Fries Memorial Prize. Aydemir is currently completing her Masters of Fine Arts at Sydney College of the Arts. 

This post is part of the Art Month Event Creative Paddington taking place on March 7th in conjunction with Metro Screen and UNSW Art & Design.


Image: © A-M Galllery, Photographer: Marion Moore