The starting point for Erdem Taşdelen’s exhibition is a little-known architectural oddity located in the Lithuanian city of Kėdainiai, approximately 120 km from the capital Vilnius. Built in 1880 and restored in 2007, this structure is a freestanding Ottoman-style minaret that peculiarly has no mosque below or attached to it, and currently sits in Kėdainiai Town Park in a former manor garden. Seized from its original owners after the failed rebellion of 1863 against Russian rule, the manor was eventually handed over to a Russian Army General named Eduard Totleben, who constructed the twenty-eight-metre tall minaret on the site.
In A Minaret for the General’s Wife, the minaret becomes a metaphor for that peculiar and potent feeling of being corporeally out of place, for structures built in locations where they seemingly don’t belong, and for objects brought out of context – in other words; displacement, appropriation, and extractivism. In his search to uncover the origins of the Kėdainiai Minaret, Taşdelen takes up these tensions through an array of disparate and tangentially related materials, assembling miscellanea in a web of relational and spatial collage. The resulting installation comprises archival photos, documents, replicas of artifacts, audiovisual material, a curious selection of objects and a book of vignettes from undisclosed origins. Together, these elements expose and interrupt connections that enable historical storytelling, and through this tension forge a place wherein the artist elicits a multiplicity of readings. For Taşdelen, the archive and the personal narrative are both invariably constructed. In bringing together historical and fictional elements, the artist complicates how we consider our own narratives and memories, compelling the viewer to consider the confounding dichotomy between the authenticity of a material record and the myriad truths spoken by subjective experience.
A Minaret for the General’s Wife was commissioned and organized by Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art and SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre), Toronto. The exhibition is made possible with Leading Support from RBC Insurance and Support from SAHA Association, Istanbul.