Critics’ Picks

View of “Erdem Taşdelen: A Minaret for the General’s Wife,” 2020–21.

View of “Erdem Taşdelen: A Minaret for the General’s Wife,” 2020–21.


Erdem Taşdelen

Mercer Union
1286 Bloor Street West
November 21, 2020–August 21, 2021

When researching history, it’s perhaps obvious that the concept of a “primary source” implies the existence of information that is secondary, tertiary, and onward, each forming a link in an interpretive chain growing farther and farther from the event where it all began. However, in Erdem Taşdelen’s solo exhibition here, “A Minaret for the General’s Wife”—co-commissioned by Mercer Union and the South Asian Visual Arts Centre—the presumed linearity of historical record is replaced with a dense network of fictions, rumors, and narrative fragments, accumulated with no clear beginning or end.

The show is centered around an Ottoman-style minaret located in Kėdainiai, Lithuania. Built in 1880 by a Russian general, the peculiar structure is notable for its lack of an accompanying mosque. As Taşdelen began researching the minaret, other contradictions began to emerge: It may have been erected to celebrate a Russian military victory or built, as the title of Taşdelen’s project suggests, as a gift for the general’s Turkish wife. Or perhaps it was a gift for another woman? Such speculations unfurl through an arrangement of tables displaying found objects, archival photographs, and other clues about this mysterious tower, displaced from its typical use. 

More possible connections begin to materialize through a chapbook of Taşdelen’s writing, also available at the gallery. A series of twelve fictions—some in Turkish and Lithuanian, notably left untranslated into English—cast oblique views on the central subject while setting the scene for many of the installation’s curious objects, including a trumpet, a handful of sunflower-seed shells, and a roll of microfilm. Yet any logic found while connecting the dots is complicated by the persistent reminder that Taşdelen is just as unreliable a narrator as any. Scattered folding chairs, loose cables, and a leaning stepladder heighten the exhibition’s particular undone quality; maybe tomorrow’s version of the story will be entirely different.