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Wittgenstein’s Dream - Freud Museum

26 November - 7 February 2016
Gallery: Freud Museum

“We are asleep. Our life is a dream. But we wake up sometimes, just enough to know that we are dreaming.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein

The Freud Museum is pleased to present Wittgenstein’s Dream, an exhibition of work by Gavin Turk and the latest in a critically acclaimed series curated by James Putnam. Turk’s installation and intervention in Freud’s former residence investigates the intriguing conceptual dialogue between two enlightened Viennese thinkers of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951).

In 1900 Freud famously published ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, widely considered his most important work, which introduces his theory of the unconscious. Through the analysis of the philosopher’s own dreams, Freud maintained that dreams are the conscious expression of an unconscious fantasy or wish not accessible to the individual in waking life. However, the celebrated philosopher Wittgenstein claimed that Freud’s views on the interpretation of dreams were flawed, believing instead that they required a more logical approach.

In the hallowed and highly charged domain of Freud’s study Turk presents [ξ, N(ξ)]’(η) (= [η, ξ, N(ξ)]) (2015), a life-size waxwork sculpture of Wittgenstein contemplating an egg. The presence of this ghost-like figure highlights the continued tension between the theories of these two philosophical greats. Above Freud’s psychoanalytic couch hangs Parapraxis (2013), a dramatic large-scale photograph of billowing smoke in which Turk explores the human tendency to instinctively associate patterns and forms with something familiar, much in the same way as we do with dreams.

Above the fireplace in Freud’s library is a wooden framed version of Turk’s celebrated The Mechanical Turk (2006) video. This not only references Freud’s interest in the game of chess and its parallels with psychoanalysis, but also the artist’s ongoing fascination with illusionism and the issues of authorship, authenticity and identity.

In the dining room Turk displays The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (2011), a work highlighting the Narcissus myth which so inspired Freud.

As visitors climb the staircase, Turk’s three neon sculptures, Id, Ego and Super Ego (all 2015), emphasise and reiterate the three theoretical constructs that comprise Freud’s structural model of the human psyche. Freud’s paper from 1923, ‘The Ego and the Id’, outlines this theory and was of fundamental importance to the development of psychoanalysis.

In the Exhibition Room Turk has echoed Freud’s iconic desk and chair by installing his own version, Gavin Turk’s Desk (2002-2015). As an ironic contrast to Freud’s beloved antiquities, Turk has arranged his own personal collection of intriguing, talismanic objects and keepsakes that relate to his artistic practice.

The exhibition opening will further blur the boundaries between past and present and the notion of what is ‘real’ with a performance orchestrated by Turk of a Freud doppelgänger fast asleep at the psychoanalyst’s original desk.

In January 2016 there will be an in conversation between Gavin Turk and Joseph Kosuth moderated by curator James Putnam.