Billboard Project by Erdem Taşdelen
January 15 to March 21, 2020
Demagogues is a provocation to question the authenticity of what is visible in the public realm. Each iteration of the work, whether a billboard or a framed print, is a photograph of the very site it’s displayed in and features the following sentence translated into the local language: If a man tells me something I believe to be an untruth, am I forbidden to do more than congratulate him on the brilliance of his lying? Taken at face value, the image seems to document the presence of this text at the site at some point in time. But in fact what’s displayed is fake, as the text has been inserted into the photograph via digital manipulation.
The original version of the sentence in English comes from an essay written in 1958 by theatre critic Kenneth Tynan, and was part of a debate with another critic about whether theatre ought to deal with daily political events or concern itself with the larger questions in life. Tynan was of the belief that to have a social purpose, theatre should engage with and respond to the political realities of the moment. Taken out of its original context, the sentence may be interpreted
today as an incitement to imagine effective responses to the rise of illiberal regimes across the globe.
Erdem Taşdelen is a Turkish-Canadian artist who currently lives and works in Toronto. His practice is rooted in conceptualism and involves a range of media including installation, video, sculpture, sound and artist books. His diverse projects bring structures of power into question within the context of culturally learned behaviours, where he often draws from unique historical narratives to address the complexities of current sociopolitical issues. Taşdelen’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions internationally, and reviewed in publications including Artforum, Flash Art, ArtAsiaPacific, Financial Times, Canadian Art and C Magazine. He has been awarded the Joseph S. Stauffer Prize in Visual Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts (2016), the Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Artists by the Hnatyshyn Foundation (2014), and was long-listed for the Sobey Art Award in 2019.