A Game of Human Chess

Billie Jenkins, Alexia Mellor, Anthony Schrag, Chess, Musee Imaginaire, Human chess, Newbridge ProjectWords by Billie Jenkins Picture Curtesy of Musee Imaginaire

Every so often in the artistic community you become embroiled in obscure situations that could as easily be part of something completely different; the start of a cult, a party where people are the right combination of weird and fun, or a nervous breakdown. It was only after pressing the send button I became aware the annoyance a text saying ‘I can’t right now I’m playing human chess’ had the potential to cause for a person at work, in full time job, to whom you had a prior commitment you have fallen short on. On the scale of things however that is one of performance arts lesser offences. When one of the two showcasing artists, Anthony Schrag, mentioned he ran a fight club at his 9-5 office it brought forth ideas about art – when is it interesting, titillating, or important; when is it being allowed to get away with the ridiculously childish; and when is it not art but just sweaty men writhing in a car park until they can cope with their day jobs. Or is it all of the above, I’m not the artist so why give a shit what I say anyway? I really don’t have a suggestion on the correct answer, but it did bring to mind the memorial of Dash Snow erected after his tragic death by friends, it read something alone the lines of ‘How hard is it to wank over a picture of Saddam Hussian anyway?’. That was in a gallery made by fellow artists, in the wake of an important event; Schrag’s work shares that sense there are almost a two fingers up at more serious artists somewhere in there, but his methods still made wonderful sense so you couldn’t help but enjoy the tension of it all.  Schrag’s website homepage actually contains a video of himself wrestling other artists, another venture bearing the caption ‘An on-going project wherein I wrestle artists to discover who is a better artist. Currently, 66 people are worse than me and 33 are better. Art is hilarious.’ For this we enjoy him greatly.

The game of chess was the product of an ongoing work on institution for Schrag and Alexia Mellor. It was supposed to show the way success and loss is built into the structure of large companies, a combination of skill, arbitrary power, teamwork and luck. It was not the most heartening experience to walk into a room of strangers and being told you look like a ‘staff’ whilst the guy next you is more ‘vice president’, but in reality it’s not much different from a guy walking into a bar and not being given a job because he isn’t a hot, young girl. It was interesting to see how a room of people pulled a game of chess out of the hat at a moments notice. I lost, but I felt I definitely deserved to lose given the way we played, perhaps that’s why they thought I was only a staff in the first place. They knew I’m inherently destined for to serve as fodder for the real gameplayers because I’m so self-depreciating. No Wolf of Wall St lives here. To summarise however, it was an evening spent in the context of the unorthodox, enough to stimulate ideas beyond the masking taped board. Definitely worth the crushing news I am a mere pawn, and an example of why we should support performance art and place ourselves outside the familiar once in a while.

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