Identities redefined unidentifiable

Erdem Taşdelen, Wild Child, two HD videos, 42’05” and 20’59”, 2015.| Courtesy of Erdem Taşdelen

Erdem Taşdelen takes society’s obsession with titles and gives it an abrupt shake.

In the upcoming exhibitions, running from Jan. 13–Mar.17 at the Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG), Wild Child and The Quantified Self Poems redress our preoccupation with labeling. “The two projects are conflated in some ways,” says Taşdelen.

Wild Child

Always curious, the Emily Carr University graduate approaches his ideas through research – first through the subjects that interest him, followed by his analysis of the desired artistic process. This is how Wild Child came to be. Taşdelen decided to look into the premise of feral children.

“There is no such thing as a feral child. They are mostly hoaxes, myths or misunderstood cases,” he says after doing some extensive research. However, in one slightly unique case based on An Historical Account of the Discovery and Education of a Savage Man by Jean Marc Gaspard Itard (1798), the author provided care to a person he thought to be feral. Itard, a physician, believed the boy needed to be “civilized”; however, developmental psychologists have established that this was possibly the first documented case of autism. “Realistically, he was most probably a child abandoned by his family, left on the side of the road, due to his autism,” Taşdelen says.

Intrigued by the story, Taşdelen decided to explore this concept of “othering” with a video production. Once he decided on the medium, he approached the Contemporary Art Gallery. Shaun Dacey, curator at the CAG.“These works speak to a broader context of ideas around the human condition. I’d known of his practice for quite some time and hoped that we could work with him,” says Dacey. Shortly after that Taşdelen approached them for support to produce Wild Child.

Taşdelen had developed a script to do a full-scale video production and he needed support to make it happen. “A big aspect to what we do at the CAG is supporting local contemporary practices,” says Dacey. Taşdelen, a Turkish-born artist, exhibits internationally which contributes to his global perspective. Subsequently, it speaks to a broader audience while being produced within the context of Vancouver. They then commissioned the work and brought on Cineworks, another local institution that works in experimental video productions.

The Quantified Self Poems

Erdem Taşdelen, The Quantified Self Poems, series of 12 silkscreen prints, 26” x 40” each, 2016. | Courtesy of Erdem Taşdelen

Being proactive agents of the arts, both inside and outside the gallery space, CAG also wanted to open their external window spaces to Taşdelen. Twelve of the artist’s screen prints, The Quantified Self Poems, were chosen for these showcases. In these spaces, he explores a societal obsession of integrating technologically-based applications into daily rituals. Prompted by a discussion from a UBC scholar on the “quantified self” movement, Taşdelen produced poems based on a lifestyle application called “Emotion Sense.”

Taşdelen started to use the app up to three times a day. What was it like to engage in this process? “It was really strange because I started to think about how I felt and how I could categorize the feeling,” he says. Stopping to think about these questions, he realized this action itself was somewhat unnatural. But then it became a game, asking “how do I feel?” “why do I feel this way?” “is this really how I feel?”

If the feeling was negative “how negative is it?” It also became an exercise, as the artist tried to quantify these emotions. “[It became] the push and pull in the project, which is the mechanical versus non-mechanical,” Taşdelen says. Working with poet, Daniel Zomparelli and programmer, Ali Bilgin Arslan, the concept started to materialize. The resulting art piece juxtaposes manual screen prints based in an analog realm from their original digital foundations. With this, the perception of a particular sensory-based reality shifts.

“Taşdelen tries to throw the audience a curve ball to wake them up” Dacey says.

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