Erdem Taşdelen


A Minaret for the General's Wife

Installation with wooden display carts, offset-printed take-away booklets,
19 framed photographs, found and custom-made objects, CNC-routed plywood plaque, inkjet poster, chairs, carpet, music stand, C-stand, stage lights, ladder, CRT monitors (single-channel video), speakers (stereo audio)

A Minaret for the General’s Wife revolves around the story of the Kėdainiai Minaret, an architectural folly located in a small town in Lithuania. Built in 1880 and restored in 2007, this freestanding Ottoman-style minaret features several distinguishing elements, including a sealed doorway, an exposed stairwell that ends midair, and plaster replicas of two marble plaques.

Two prominent narratives regarding the construction of the Kėdainiai Minaret provide context for this project. The first, based in historical fact, is that it was erected by a Russian Army General named Eduard Totleben as a monument in celebration of Russia’s victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78. The second, a romantic myth popular among locals, is that Totleben had a Turkish lover of Islamic faith for whom he built a mosque, of which only an orphaned minaret remains today.

In A Minaret for the General’s Wife, the minaret is taken up as a metaphor for the experience 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. The installation comprises archival documents, replicas of artefacts, audiovisual material, a curious selection of objects and a booklet of 12 texts whose origins are undisclosed, all assembled in a web of relational and spatial collage that suggests reconfigurable performative possibilities. In presenting primary sources, translations and fabulations referencing the Kėdainiai Minaret in equal measure, the exhibition compels the viewer to consider the confounding dichotomy between the authenticity of a material record and the myriad truths spoken by subjective experience, thereby complicating how we consider our own narratives and memories.

Relevant links:
Between Stage and Proposition - critical essay by Suzy Halajian
Artforum Critics' Picks - review by Daniella Sanader
Video Walkthrough - virtual tour of the exhibition

A Minaret for the General's Wife was commissioned by Mercer Union, Toronto and SAVAC, Toronto, 2020.

Produced with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, SAHA Association, RBC Insurance and Rupert, Lithuania.

All installation views at Mercer Union, Toronto, 2020. Photos by Toni Hafkenscheid.