Welcome Dear Stranger
A 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 and artificial intelligence? I typed the name into Google, and discovered there was a man called Alan Mathison Turing, dead now for more than half a century. His birthplace happened to be only a 2 minute walk from where I was at that moment. And it just so happened that this day was June 23rd, the anniversary of his birth. 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 a small walk in Maida Vale 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 1-7: Welcome Dear Stranger exhibit, London, 2014, Installation views