The New York University Department of Photography and Imaging is pleased to announce the opening of (for Alan Turing) an exhibition by artist Cody Trepte, the 2005 recipient of the Daniel Rosenberg Fellowship. With the support of this grant, Trepte explored the origins of technology through the writings of Alan Turing, a gay mathematician who is considered by many to be the father of modern computer science.
Alan Turing (1912-1954) played a key role in the development of computer technology. He first received attention for his work in helping the British forces to break the German code machine, the Enigma, during World War II, providing the edge for the Allies to win the war. Soon after that, Turing developed concepts that were essential in the development of modern computers and are still in use today. Despite Turing’s enormous contributions, in 1952 he was convicted of acts of gross indecency after it was revealed that he was homosexual and was sentenced to an experimental hormone therapy. Two years later he committed suicide.
In this exhibition of two large paper-based works and a series of textile pieces, Trepte addresses his fascination with the technology and theory Turing produced during his lifetime, the bitter tragedy in the mathematician’s personal life story, and his legacy. In On Computable Numbers, Trepte removed with an x-acto knife all of the text except for the ones and zeros from the 33 pages of Turing’s seminal essay by the same name, in which he invented a universal machine to accomplish all tasks – a computer.
By preserving only the binary code present in the text, Trepte creates a recursive artifact of Turing’s work: he applies the very concepts Turing invented to the mathematician’s own writing.
Using a similarly tedious and intentionally inefficient process that directly contrasts with the digital language Turing defined, Trepte collected the space from between the words in another of Turing’s influential essays, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” Conceptually “casting” the weight of the negative space in Turing’s text, the resulting group of 5 paper works highlights the literal void within the text itself and gives new form to the absence created by the mathematician’s life cut short.
Also included are more than two dozen cross-stitched works that explore Trepte’s more personal connection to Alan Turing. Translating into binary code the title of each piece (The world is binary , Code and Cody, and I wonder if we would have been friends, among others), Trepte, in a meditative process, then stitched each phrase into black and white grids offering insight into his fascination with the impact of Turing’s life in our contemporary moment.