What a Drag isa solo exhibition of new work by Vancouver-based artist Erdem Taşdelen that examines the role of language in the making of subjectivity. In this series of works, Taşdelen transcribes camp performative enunciations into texts made of thousands of hand-stitched sequins. When read, the flamboyant visual aesthetic speaks of the grandly wigged and dazzling acts of drag without necessitating an actual recital. This proposes a new, powerful capacity for drag performance, in which a physical act is transformed into an image act.
However, these concise, static word-marks still call for the performative, as it is necessary that in order to really read the work, one must enounce it with the right modulation and intonation, if at least in their own head. In an endless loop, Taşdelen transforms the performance of drag into a text piece, only to have it re-performed by its readers. It is through this reiterative performance, and through the labourious manual process of hand stitching that Taşdelen draws a parallel between the repetition of language and the construction and acquisition of gender roles.
At the same time, the spectacular quality of the hand-written text resembles something to be used in advertising, for it is not uncommon that graphic designers appropriate traits of a cultural group to sell a product. But Taşdelen leaves out a basic principal of advertising where once the attention of the viewer is secured it becomes necessary to define a further action, a product to sell, or a number to call. His series deprives thirsty window shoppers, delivering an enticing vernacular of consumption and entertainment with no redeeming message, second act or way to buy in. Instead, Taşdelen’s work only sells itself as a trademark, a representative icon of drag culture, and in doing so, demonstrates how the use of such visual communication in the making of subjectivity is already implicated in the act of consumption and the selling of subjectivity.
What a Drag is accompanied by Convictions, an artist-book produced by Erdem Taşdelen in conjunction with designer Mathew Arthur that is made up of a series of notations that remark various day-to-day experiences that inform queer subjectivity. The project also includes a long format inter-view between Magnolia Pauker and the artist, transcribed and available online during the exhibition, speaking to the artist’s practice and methodologies.