The Negotiation of Purpose

Kitchen table, knife and motor

780 x 920 x 920 mm


A knife slowly spinning on a yellow formica table with an electric motor. Gavin Turk in conversation with Louisa Buck, December 2006: Louisa Buck: The Negotiation of Purpose is a piece in which a knife spins round and round on a tabletop as in the game of chance. But in this case a hidden motor means that the knife keeps on turning and never stops. The implication seems to be that in this work there is no single static moment of intent or decision, the situation remains endlessly open ended. Determined purpose is cancelled out by perpetual motion: nobody is telling you what to do. Gavin Turk: The purpose is the state of negotiation, I guess. For me it was a Dada or Surrealist title for a kind of machine. A metaphor of a modernity that never quite arrived, it just became something else, it turned into what we have now. Louisa Buck: Underpinning much of modernism was the belief that truths would be arrived at and absolutes reached, whereas the present seems better expressed by this functionally dysfunctional machine that refuses a single, certain state. Or put in another way indecision is left in suspended animation. Gavin Turk: I saw this table with the knife on it as a reference to a ‘still life’ with the direction of the knife, its angle to the picture plane as its key compositional element. But at the same time because it is moving all the time. The audience gets a kind of multi perspective on the object in a cubistic way. There’s also the cliché of a revolving plinth with a sculpture on it, maybe it’s a television thing…