OUR NEW NATIONAL SPORT

Terror – if it doesn’t kill us, will it make us stronger? This is the  question that artist Cigdem Aydemir poses in her latest work The New National Sport, a live art endurance performance. As part of the performance, audience will witness Aydemir as she returns serves sent from a tennis-ball throwing machine, which eject  balls whenever the word ‘terror’ is tweeted. Resembling a macabre tennis game, The New National Sport reflects the constant vigilance experienced by the artist – a Muslim woman – and the larger Muslim community, regardless of whether a new act of terror occurs or is committed by a Muslim.

Aydemir spoke with The Melbourne Critique about The New National Sport, personal experience and how the stamina of society has shifted gears in response to being inundated and desensitised to acts of terrorism by medias now daily reporting.

Cigdem how, in your own words do you define “terrorism” and how has the new wave of “Islamophobia” impacted on your life?

I prefer the dictionary definition of terrorism: “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

I’m not exactly sure about what is meant by “the new wave”, but yes Islamophobia has, and continues to impact on my life. I have written about this at length in my thesis which can be found here:

What can and should be done to unravel Islam from terrorism, and is it a shift that we are likely to see in this generation? 

We can all be involved in challenging stereotypes and harmful and unrounded ideas about groups of people. The question in not so much about what to do, but what you do in response to or in the face of such harmful dialogue. To take it one step further, we might start to acknowledge that prejudices are perpetuated by people who benefit from ideological constructions of good and bad and their position within, or in proximity to hierarchies of power.

Talk to us about this work you are creating, and the endurance element of the work, are you working with metaphor at all?

The body is a metaphor for the larger political body, so yes I am working with metaphor. The endurance is meant to reflect the way in which communities and individuals wear and weather news of terror and its follow-on effects. The 8 hours is a reflection of the working day, or a day at school, the time in which individuals may be required to be out of their comfort zone, and where they might experience or come up against harmful discourse.

What role does art play in an ongoing shift in perceptions, and do you truly believe that conversations struck within the performance space have life and extend-ability outside of these parameters? 

This is a big question. My aim, as originally stated by the artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena, is to leave a sediment in the viewers mind. I don’t try to change the way people think, I try to make art that can be experienced and read on a number of levels. I would like to think that it has life outside of the performance space.

What would a world without art be like?

To say that a world could possibly be without art is to suggest there could be a world in which we don’t see, think, taste, feel, touch. I don’t think such a world can exist.

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