Erdem Taşdelen


The Characters

Three-act audio installation with speakers, programmed spotlights, prints
Each act approx. 60 mins

An exercise in dramaturgy and dystopian reflection, The Characters is a three-act audio installation that follows the self-indulgent, bitter, pitiful, deluded, occasionally frenetic and always mordantly humorous narratives of 30 stock characters. Each of these fictional characters is a recognizable archetype that represents a specific set of behaviours or thoughts, and their defining traits are borrowed from the work of Theophrastus, a Greek author of the 4th century BCE. Better known as “the father of botany,” Theophrastus produced the first set of character sketches in history, describing types of people such as The Lover of Bad Company, The Pennypincher and The Late Learner. Peculiarly, all of these 30 types, together titled The Characters, depict negative traits. Some scholars have speculated that a supplementary volume comprising positive types must also have existed, or at least been planned. In the absence of these, however, The Characters takes on a comical quality through its rather bleak presentation of human nature.

Each of the three acts in the project comprises ten idiosyncratic monologues that portray the less palatable aspects of humankind, performed by voice actors from scripts developed by the artist. As these monologues play on speakers around the exhibition space, programmed lights direct the viewer’s attention between the characters’ performances and transform the space into what may resemble an inverted theatre stage that the audience can walk into. The overarching narrative framework is a sense of heightened distrust, of things having gone awry due to an untold series of political events that have taken place in the unnamed near-future setting that these characters inhabit. From this cacophony, a strangely recognizable din of dystopia emerges, resonating with today’s social, political and economic realities, and offering an uncanny reflection of ourselves as the cast.

The Characters was produced with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and Toronto Arts Council. All three Acts were curated by Natasha Chaykowski.

Installation views of Act I: Untitled Art Society (presented in partnership with EMMEDIA), Calgary (AB), 2019. Photos by Katy Whitt.
Installation views of Act II: AKA artist-run, Saskatoon (SK), 2020. Photos by Derek Sandbeck.
Installation views of Act III: Art Gallery of Burlington (ON), 2022. Photos by Yuula Benivolski.

Act I
The Idle Chatterer
The Boor
The Rumour-Monger
The Tactless One
The Superstitious One
The One of Petty Ambition
The Ungenerous One
The Coward
The Lover of Bad Company
The Chiseller

Act II
The Flatterer
The Complaisant One
The Garrulous One
The Sponger
The Buffoon
The Absent-Minded One
The Braggart
The Authoritarian
The Late Learner
The Slanderer

The Dissembler
The Reckless One
The Pennypincher
The Officious One
The Grouch
The Faultfinder
The Suspicious One
The Repulsive One
The One with Bad Taste
The Arrogant One

The Superstitious One (from The Characters: Act I), 5'37". Performed by Dawn Harvey.

The One of Petty Ambition (from The Characters: Act I), 5'27". Performed by Christi Dos Santos.

The Coward (from The Characters: Act I), 5'21". Performed by Scott Pickett.

The Flatterer (from The Characters: Act II), 4'42". Performed by Ed Robinson.