Erdem Tasdelen uses pictures and words to convey a sense, a story, a feeling, a concept. In this sense, it’s a straightforward transaction for an artist. The artist creates, you consume. But of course, it’s not a singular exchange. With disarming directness, Tasdelen exposes the tendons that connect subject and audience, displaying the paradoxical necessity and frivolity of these positions.
In video piece entitled Worrier, the artist participates in and tapes five therapy sessions. Supported by the Turkish institute ARTER, Tasdelen was able to work beyond monetary restrictions. “What I thought was, what would I do if I actually had money right now? How would I make use of this money? I would go to therapy,” Tasdelen says. “It’s one of these daredevil moments, where I think, ‘could I actually do that?’”
Tasdelen often seems like he’s playing a gut-wrenching game of truth or dare. Dare: Make business cards that describe the harsher truths of who you are rather than what you do. The result? Forty-eight business cards with self-descriptions ranging from “Delusional lover” to “Malcontent leftist”. Tasdelen actually uses them in his daily life. “I don’t pick and choose. I have this limited pool, but I don’t really have control over what I am at that specific moment,” Tasdelen says as he hands over an army-green business card, occupation listed “Agitated anti-militarist”.
Truth: Describe the moments in your life that make up your personal identity.
Answer: Short anecdotes of events hardcover-bound in Convictions, published by non-profit, artist-run Centre 221A, describing the moments when the artist becomes aware of his queerness. One anecdote involves buying two wine glasses, “one for you, one for her,” the cashier jokes. Tasdelen responds “No, him.” Tasdelen recalls that moment, laughing, “I left that store and I remember thinking, this moment is so important and I need to do something about this. This really matters.”
Most recently Tasdelen was included in Draft Urbanism at the Biennial of the Americas in Denver, Colorado, curated by Carson Chan. Tasdelen, who was born in Turkey and is now based in Vancouver, was asked by Chan to create a piece responding to the protests surrounding the redevelopment of Taksim Gezi Park.
Given only two days, Tasdelen responded with a billboard titled Postures in Protest covered with adverbs used to describe the protests in Turkey. “Usually it takes me a very long process of deliberation to make a project. I’ll think of an idea, I’ll put it aside, I wont do it for a while, this is to my disadvantage. I think too much without doing, but with this one it just happened so quickly,” he says, emphasizing his point with a snap of his fingers. The adverbs describe the ways in which individuals stage protests in popular uprisings, a commentary on how these actions transpire and the strength and fortitude it takes to do them.
The power of Tasdelen work lies in its precision. Receiving a business card where “Drama queen” is listed as occupation only illuminates the painfully self-aware process of handing out a business card. The stomach-pang felt after reading an anecdote in Convictions is recognized in one’s own personal experience. Using adverbs to represent a protest saturated in text and social media is powerful in its immediacy and directness. The audience is participating in a reciprocal game of truth or dare we didn’t know we were playing.
All artwork images courtesy of the artist.