Welcome Dear Stranger
The germ of this project grew from uncanny circumstances. I had been at a complete loss for what to create in my final months as a Masters student at Chelsea College in London. Fortuitously, this combination of letters, like a foggy teleprompter, kept repeating in my mind’s eye: T-U-R-I-N-G. I must have come across this name somewhere, because it seemed vaguely familiar. Didn’t it have something to do with computers or artificial intelligence? When I typed the name into a Google search window, I discovered there was a man called Alan Mathison Turing, dead now for more than half a century. Slightly eerie but true, his birthplace was only a 2 minute walk from where I sat. And it just so happened that this day was June 23rd, the anniversary of his birth. All the clues were there, leaping out at me from the computer screen. I didn’t know it in that moment, but I’d found the centerpiece of my project. Or rather it had found me. On June 23rd, 2014, I took that small walk around the corner to 2 Warrington Crescent and began to follow Alan’s footsteps.
I read two biographies on his life and discovered an engrossing tale of a brilliant, quietly defiant man. Among his many achievements, Turing was a cryptanalyst, mathematician, computer scientist, marathon runner, and logician. His is also a tale of a rather lonely and highly sensitive man who, at the age of 17, lost his first love, a schoolmate named Christopher Morcom, to tuberculosis. Did he turn towards the machine and the possibilities of artificial intelligence largely due to this great personal loss?
In many ways, I’ve coloured Turing through my own experiences as a gay man born 70 years later. What must it have been like to live in a time when the love you wished to express was criminalized? I fell in love with the idea of this sublime man who remained stubbornly himself, even up to his untimely and tragic demise with a partially eaten apple found beside his body. I invite you, dear stranger, to explore this room. Each fragment in the room is a clue. But a clue to what?
5 September, 2014
(featured image: Entangled Particles, 2014, marker on plaster)
Images 1-9: Welcome Dear Stranger exhibit, London, 2014, Installation views