Last night I was invited by Gavin Turk to see his latest installment at the Freud Museum in Hampstead, which is curated by LCF’s James Putnam.
Turk’s installation at Freud’s former home investigates his relationship with philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Wittgenstein, a logical reasoner, questioned Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ and was suspicious of psychoanalysis as a science for its lack of empirical basis.
Life-size waxwork sculpture of Wittgenstein contemplating an egg
The tension between these two thinkers is highlighted throughout the exhibition, but most clearly, by a vivid waxwork figure of Wittgenstein, standing in Freud’s study with an egg in his palm.
The egg is a real thing, it is a fact, but as he is a waxwork, is it a dream or a reality? Is he dreaming he is holding it, or really holding it?
Freud’s study with his desk and chair
Above Freud’s couch where patients would have once laid revealing their dreams is a haunting photograph of billowing smoke.
This reminded me of the psychological inkblot tests, where how we perceive the different forms of inkblots is analysed and interpreted in much the same way as dreams.
We imagine the forms we see in the smoke, but are these based on underlying subconscious fantasies or are they logical associations? Freud or Wittgenstein?
Parapraxis. Image via The Freud Museum
In Freud’s library is Gavin Turk’s ‘The Mechanical Turk’ video, which shows Turk as the chess-playing automaton, capable of beating a human opponent in a game of chess.
This film wittily plays on the artists name and, at the same time, references not only the practice of “automatism” to release dreams and Freud’s interest in chess, but also Gavin Turk’s own interest with the issues of authenticity and identity, which are ongoing themes in his work.
The constant dialogue and contrast between thinkers and artist, realist and dreamer is very thought-provoking. Freud or Wittgenstein? Perception or logic?
In response to Freud’s desk, Gavin Turk ironically arranged his own personal collection of objects that relate to his artistic practice.