January 16, 2012

OUT OF THE BOX Profile: Gavin Turk, The Mechanical Turk, 2008

Posted in Exhibitions

ulmer1024116986506px72dpiGavin Turk, The Mechanical Turk, 2008. RS&L Ltd., London

Gavin Turk, The Mechanical Turk, 2008

Gavin Turk continues his tradition of recasting himself as the subject of his artwork in The Mechanical Turk, 2008. While seen before as very recognizable cultural icons such as Andy Warhol, Elvis Presley, Sis Vicious, and Che Guevara, Turk casts himself as a chess-playing machine (and namesake) known as a Mechanical Turk or an Automaton Chess Player. This “machine,” which was initially introduced in 1770 by its creator Baron Wolfgang von Kemplelen, became an incredible sensation (in both Europe and the US) capable of beating skilled chess players including Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin. Controlled with a series of levers and pulleys, a chess master secretly operated the automaton from within a cabinet filled with false walls and chambers below. The public remained in awe and duped by the contraption until the 1820s. There are often connections drawn between the Mechanical Turk and Deep Blue and Deep Junior—complex IBM computer systems created to play (and defeat) chess greats such as Gary Kasparov.

Gavin Turk dresses convincingly as a “Turk” in a video as he performs the Knight’s Tour – a complex puzzle where one takes a single knight and in sequential moves touches every square on the board only once and returns to beginning square. A curious soundtrack accompanies the film simulating the noises made by the pulley system.

For more information about this work and other works seen in the exhibition, click here.

OUT OF THE BOX: Artists Play Chess is curated by Bradley Bailey and is on view until February 12, 2012.