Erdem Taşdelen’s A Minaret for the General’s Wife opens at Richmond Art Gallery on April 22.Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid

Original Published April 14, 2002

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The upcoming exhibition at the Richmond Art Gallery explores the sensation of displacement through a real-life architectural oddity.

A Minaret for the General’s Wife features works by Turkish-Canadian artist Erdem Taşdelen, inspired by a freestanding minaret located in Kėdainiai, Lithuania. A minaret is a type of tower that is generally part of or next to a mosque.

“I was immediately struck by how odd it looked to me,” says Taşdelen. “I wanted to go there and see it for myself.”

He originally envisioned a speculative film about the minaret, and began to write texts that featured or tangentially touched upon it. But an art installation came about instead, almost by accident.

“I initially started writing the imaginative perspective of a Turkish wife—if she existed, what would she have thought?” says Taşdelen. “(But) I became dissatisfied with the experience, and realized what I was really interested in was meaning being made simultaneously over and over (through) time by multiple people.”

He says the exhibition is about thinking through togetherness in a collective sense, sharing the cultural world with others.

“I want (audiences) to think about how they consider objects and entities in their lives, how they attribute meaning to those objects that are guided by each person’s individual experience,” he says.

The exhibition was first shown last year at Mercer Union in Toronto, although pandemic restrictions required visitors to book a timed entry slot. Taşdelen says that format created a ghostly presence of other bodies in the space, rather than the collective togetherness he had envisioned.

“What I was really thinking about in this exhibition was the idea of the space being suspended while it was in use; the idea that bodies may have been present in the space right before you,” he says. “Even evoking the sense that if you sit on a chair, it may feel warm from somebody else’s body having been there.”

Taşdelen is curious about how the exhibition will feel this time, given open admissions. But he anticipates audiences will experience “minor productive confusion” when they first enter, given the different elements being staged.

“You see elements like a stepladder that’s left in the installation, and you know if you go to galleries enough that that will never be left by accident,” says Taşdelen. “Once that trigger goes off in your brain, you’ll see that everything (you’re) looking at is scripted in this particular manner—so why does it feel that way?”

In his artistic practice, Taşdelen has elements that anchor every project.

“There’s really no way to generalize where those come from—they’re all around us, they’re everywhere. Sometimes I’ll hear something and it’ll really stick with me, and I’ll continue to interrogate why it’s still sticking with me and how it illuminates something about my current conditions and life,” he says.

Taşdelen adds that the pandemic has changed his artistic practice in some ways, although he describes his approach as introspective.

“In the sense of things slowing down and deadlines being pushed further, really the slowness made me realize that maybe it’s okay to take your time with things (and) good things can come out of that too,” he says.

While this exhibition was postponed twice before finally opening, Taşdelen calls the first postponement a blessing in disguise that allowed him more time to work on details. He’s grateful that most of his projects are supported through grants that allow him some flexibility to take the time needed.

The exhibition is accompanied by an essay written by Suzy Halajian as part of the brochure given to viewers. The texts, including that essay, are an important element of the exhibition.

A Minaret for the General’s Wife is commissioned and organized by Mercer Union and the South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC) in Toronto and was made possible with support from RBC Insurance and SAHA Association, Istanbul. The exhibition is at Richmond Art Gallery from April 22 to July 31.

This item reprinted with permission from the Richmond Sentinel, Richmond, British Columbia