top of page

Mechanical Turk

Mechanical Turk

Please join us for the opening reception and panel discussion for Mechanical Turk, curated by the members of the FJORD Gallery at the Rhode Island School of Design's Memorial Hall Gallery on Tuesday September 17th from 5-8pm. There will be a brief talk and discussion about the gallery and the exhibition from 5-6pm with a reception to follow from 6-8pm. FJORD is excited to include the following artists as part of this exhibition: 

Seth Adelsberger
Colin Benjamin
John Bohl
Pia Howell
Katie Kehoe
Sam Lipp
JJ Miyaoka-Pakola
Michael Sirianni
Rachel Stern

The works were chosen from a list of artist websites sent via email by five artist-run spaces in five cities, the majority of the artists have never met us and are involved with galleries that we have yet to visit, and every piece was selected before we saw it in person.

This experiment began with the conceit to mine artist-run spaces for work with which we could curate an exhibition; by the nature of our approach, the means of correspondence with other galleries became the curatorial mechanism itself. The process is, in its most basic form,
an example of 'crowdsourcing,' which is defined as "the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers."

A dichotomy arises between the impalpable qualities of online (technological) interaction and the temporal and physical nature of any exhibition. A famous anachronism, the Mechanical Turk, illustrates a reduced version of this duality. Built towards the end of the 18th Century in Austria, the Turk was a wooden automaton dressed in Ottoman clothing seated at a wooden desk upon which lay a chess board. It confounded its contemporaries with its ability to play chess independently of its ever-present owner, and toured Europe and the United States for over a century. Many observers attempted to demystify the machine; Edgar Allen Poe, among others, correctly hypothesized that the automaton could only function with the aid of a chess master concealed in a compartment in the Turk's desk.

In a similar sense, our Mechanical Turk is composed of, and curated by, numerous artists and gallery members, even if we have yet to meet them outside of the metaphorical machine. Our dependence on the internet, an often indefinite zone, is not a substitute for the tangible world. It does, however, lend us the ability to exist as artists and gallerists in a wide range of places and independently of pre-established formulas for success. It is important to note that while this scenario could be indefinitely repeated, the results of this process are anything but predetermined; variables such as mediums, gender, location, content and all other key factors are all affected by the restraints of this exercise.

The works themselves are manifestations of the diversity and the congruence of this strategy, and they underscore the importance of their perspectives within the larger framework at our disposal. Patterns emerge between the pieces themselves; dissections of masculinity, images of lit candles and electricity, Orientalism, and gestural interpretations of the digital world. For all of its problematic contrivances and connotations, the Mechanical Turk provides us with a useful tool to disseminate these undercurrents and commonalities, and to experience them in the flesh.
--Cameron Masters

bottom of page