The Quantified Self Poems
January 13 – March 19, 2017
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents two new works by Toronto-based Turkish artist Erdem Taşdelen. Commissioned by the Contemporary Art Gallery with Cineworks, Wild Child, presented in CAG’s North Gallery, is an ambitious two-part video installation which takes as its starting point An Historical Account of the Discovery and Education of a Savage Man by Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, a physician who decided to care for a feral boy found in Aveyron, France in 1798. Convinced that he could “civilize” the boy by teaching him language, Itard was left frustrated in his attempts to make the boy transcend his so-called savagery when he proved incapable of learning to speak.
In Wild Child Taşdelen adapts this story, this time set in contemporary British Columbia and presented through two distinct elements. One video depicts preparations for an imagined filmed documentary, featuring twelve actors as they audition for the roles of its main characters. This is accompanied by a second piece, a sequence of images of a forest depicting “nature” in a supposedly unmediated manner. Devoid of any human activity, it provides the viewer with a space of contemplation in contrast to the interactions portrayed between performers, crew and writer/director.
Presented in our windows is The Quantified Self Poems, a new series of twelve screen prints. Over a period of three months in the summer of 2016, Taşdelen reported his moods approximately three times a day on “Emotion Sense”, a self-improvement smartphone app developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK. As he answered a series of questions the artist’s feelings were numerically encoded as data, effectively quantifying the unquantifiable. Working with programmer Ali Bilgin Arslan, Taşdelen developed an algorithm that translated this information into words drawn from a unique dictionary created by Vancouver-based poet Daniel Zomparelli. Unusual sentences emerge from which we attempt to make some kind of sense.
Each work exposes the dynamics at play through differing representations of human nature. Notionally objective realities conflate with fiction in a self-referential manner that deliberately befuddles the viewer; the familiar made compelling strange.
Wild Child is commissioned by Contemporary Art Gallery with Cineworks and is supported by BC Arts Council.
The Quantified Self Poems is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and produced with thanks to Daniel Zomparelli and Ali Bilgin Arslan.