Exhibitions2015The Mechanical Turk

The Mechanical Turk

1 May 15

Metropole Hotel

Presented by the Gervasuti Foundation in collaboration with the Hotel Metropole, The Mechanical Turk was a site-specific film installation within the context of the hotel’s Byzantine, historical and cultural references.

The film showed the artist impersonating Wolfgang von Kempelen’s famous automaton, ‘The Turk’ (1769), which was capable of playing a game of chess against a human opponent until Edgar Allen Poe exposed it as a hoax in the 1820s. Influential cultural theorist, Walter Benjamin, compared the Mechanical Turk to a particular view of history, which doesn’t see through the illusions that conceal the true mechanisms of power.

Each element in the film was deliberately chosen to echo several of the artist’s recurring motifs and themes such as Magritte’s pipe, the candle or the tombstone found in Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David (1793). Caught in the artist’s loop, the viewer witnesses the mesmerising automaton repeatedly performing the knight’s tour, a strategic move in chess that consists of moving the Knight until it has occupied every square of the chessboard only once.

Turk aptly redeploys the story of this well-known automaton as a means to question the notion of authenticity in art, the meaning of being an artist and how art is understood under the guise of celebrity and fame.