Nearby is the famous chaise-longue where Freud conducted long sessions with his patients, an item of furniture that conjures the many narratives, traumas, motivations, and passions that the room witnessed. But hung just above it, Turk’s large-scale photograph of a twisting, curling plume of smoke against a black ground, Parapraxis (2013) (one of three in the show), appears like a phantom in the space. While there are certainly figures to be discerned in it, the smoke’s shapes and forms might evoke any number of associations. These would be just guesses, personal projections rather than hard science, and the work seems to suggest that any attempt at an “empirical” reading of a dream would be just as subjective.
Such ambiguity is embodied by a room upstairs, where Turk has staged a desk of his own. Displayed carefully on the table, ephemera, souvenirs, and objects from his personal and professional life—a ball of rubber bands, a snowball made of plaster—are presented like ethnographic or archaeological specimens. A long glass vitrine on the wall opposite assigns each one a faux-scientific provenance and explanation that only highlights its meaninglessness. Taken altogether, it’s a surreal accumulation of colors, textures, and materials that might seem significant—but only in a dream.
“Gavin Turk: Wittgenstein’s Dream” is on view at the Freud Museum, London, Nov. 26, 2015–Feb. 7, 2016.