In his exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts in London, Turk pays hommage to the artist Alighiero Boetti, whose retrospective was at Tate Modern between 28 February - 27 May 2012. Boetti was a key member of arte povera, a group of young Italian artists in the late 1960s, who were working in radically new ways, using simple materials, to question authorship and identity themselves.
I am Gavin Turk, and I am sitting in an exhibition in London. Alighiero Boetti is an artist who starts his career in the sixties and goes through the seventies, working in a material way, using sort of steel grids, and using wood and making interactive artworks.
His work became more and more mathematically inclined, and more distant and textual, i.e. involved in text.
His work does influence other artists, and I think that in that sense it’s important. The point where Boetti’s work really shifted on was actually where he went to Afghanistan and he then employed people to make embroideries for him, and was able then to get into a very kind of poetic and a kind of literary and conceptual space with his work.
This work is called Order/Disorder, which relates to a work by Boetti. There are different styles of embroidery that are going on, and that is because all the embroideries were done by different people. I suppose the disorder is something to do with the way that it’s not a constant repeat. The 3x3 grid is possible because my name, Gavin Turk, actually fits nicely into a nine square grid.
I think sometimes with art there is a sense that crafted things, or things that are made or fabricated by hand and made where they expose their making, and they almost, like, expose their limitations, are almost lower down on the kind of craft hierarchy than something that is kind of perfectly made. And I think there is something about that in the Boetti work as well, which he is working with.
He also worked with his name as a kind of, form of content. At one point he splits his name into Alighiero e Boetti, so he becomes like a Christian name as one kind of cultural identity, and then a surname as another kind of cultural identity.
The title of the show is Gavin and Turk. It’s actually Gavin&Turk, and so what happens is that the ampersand does look a little bit like an e, which in Italian, obviously means ‘and’, but an ampersand also is a sort of hierarchied form of conjunction between the Gavin and the Turk. For me, it felt a little bit like a banner under which you might create a market. It seemed to, like, start the ball rolling with this questioning of how are these two characters, Gavin and Turk, how were they bringing their stuff, their goods, to the market.
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