SPACE: Erdem Taşdelen | Vicissitudes: Act Two

7 December 2019 - 22 February 2020
Opening Reception 6 December 2019 7pm

Two Women

I know it’s late afternoon when—as if realizing within a dream that I’ve been dreaming—I notice the moody murmurs of a saxophone at my window. The player is known to appear now and then in front of the Italian restaurant just down and across the street, well-loved for its homemade burrata, richly liquored tiramisu and Lambrusco by the glass. The breathless Harlem Nocturne has a Pavlovian effect on my hunger, so, as if on cue,
I throw on a coat and wander down the stairs.

A few steps on to the main drag, I spot a tall, plain-looking woman with long grey-blonde hair moving with purpose down the sidewalk. I lock eyes with her by accident, and lazily look away, pretending to take special interest in the sky. Suddenly, she’s two feet in front of me, at a full stop. With a trembling hand, she raises some papers to an appropriate reading distance, and replaces her glasses to her face from their dangling place around her neck. Clearing her throat, she begins to read:

“I’m aware that you have been spending time with my husband. I understand that you think this is okay. My husband and I are married. Our marital contract precludes—”

Puzzled, I mutter, “You’ve got the wrong girl,” and continue walking, setting my eyes on the warm, busy interior of the Italian spot. She angles herself toward my departure and continues much more loudly now:

“Our marital contract precludes extramarital affairs. Though he, too, is aware of this, he has a weak moral code, and with age, has become increasingly indolent about his once-held principles. The 4am arrivals, the taking of phone calls outside in the dead of winter, the maniacally cheerful greetings after prolonged absences—”

“Who’s your husband?” I interject, indulging her, having grown increasingly intrigued by the performance.

“[REDACTED],” she says.

A pause for 3-4 full seconds.

“I wasn’t aware that [REDACTED] is married…” I say, curiously.

“Wrong! Cut!” says a teenage boy sitting on a concrete bench with headphones around his neck and a 2L bottle of Pepsi at his side. He’s holding a similar stack of papers, with a pencil elegantly poised in his hand. “The line is: ‘I wasn’t aware that [REDACTED] is STILL married.’ And coldly—say it coldly.”

I furrow my brow, suddenly feeling the heat of an inexplicable second sun at my back. Holding my hand to my forehead, I turn around to find a spotlight, towering from atop a tripod. At its base stands a boy, freckled and clad in an oversized Friends U Can’t Trust t-shirt, with one foot on a skateboard and a light meter in his hand. A few feet away, a boy in a hoodie hunched over the mixing console resting on his lap, gingerly adjusts a few knobs.

“Do you want to have a drink?” I ask the wife.

“Let’s not pretend we share some special bond.”

“Have a drink with me or don’t, but let’s not go on about it.”

A smile creeps across her face, she starts to laugh, and then we both laugh.

                                                                                                           —Jaclyn Bruneau


Author’s note: Erdem Taşdelen’s billboard is the first thing I encounter outside of my apartment building, immediately east of Mercer Union.

Postscript: the last three lines of this text are a nod to the young woman who kisses a man she hadn’t known was married, and the wife of that man, in La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961). The scene referenced here depicts their first private moment—in the former’s bedroom, after a bout of rain during a party at her wealthy father’s home—and ends with the young woman blow-drying the wife’s hair.

Installation views: Erdem Taşdelen, Vicissitudes: Act Two, Commissioned by Mercer Union, 2019. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

SPACE invites one artist to produce a yearlong series of images for a public-facing billboard located on the east façade of Mercer Union. Erdem Taşdelen’s Vicissitudes: Act Two (2019) is the second edition in a series of four billboard images commissioned by Mercer Union. An accompanying text written by Jaclyn Bruneau can be found above.

Erdem Taşdelen is a Turkish-Canadian artist who lives and works in Toronto. His work has been shown in numerous exhibitions internationally and across Canada, most recently at venues including Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen (2019); VOX Centre de l’image contemporaine, Montreal (2018); Pera Museum, Istanbul; Or Gallery, Vancouver (2017); Museum für Neue Kunst, Freiburg (2016). Taşdelen has been awarded the Joseph S. Stauffer Prize in Visual Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts (2016), the Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Artists by the Hnatyshyn Foundation (2014), and was long-listed for the Sobey Art Award in 2019.

Jaclyn Bruneau is a writer, critic and the Editor of C Magazine. She is a member of the Board of Directors at Images Festival, and is currently underway on an inconspicuous, yearlong publishing project in the online classifieds with Natasha Chaykowski and Untitled Art Society called please, teach me to swim.

Image: Erdem Taşdelen, detail from Vicissitudes: Act Two, 2019. Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Mercer Union, Toronto.