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As part of the International Poster and Graphic Design Festival of Chaumont, Metahaven were commissioned to create a human size chess game entitled Nomadic Chess.

By Katie Dominy / 27-06-2013

You have until this Saturday to get down to Chaumont, a two-hour train ride east from Paris, to take part in Metahaven’s giant chess game. Running for a month, the installation is located in the Chapelle des Jésuites, a deconsecrated 17th century Baroque church. The Chapelle has been used for a number of years as one of the most unusual and challenging contexts to show graphic design in the festival.

Metahaven from Amsterdam, alias Daniel Van der Velden and Vinca Kruk, were invited by Étienne Hervy, artistic director of the festival to create the work that the duo describes briefly as: ‘a mobile chess game that consists of 128 leather squares. The two black, two white teams and the chessboard are all made of leather tiles. The tiles are silkscreened with graphics in silver, gold, blue and fluorescent orange.’ There are four chess sets. Two black sets entitled ‘Confusion’ and ‘Capital’ and two white – ‘Convenience” and ‘Most Popular’.

Design.nl asked Metahaven for a little more detail: “The game is portable and can be folded up or out in a matter of minutes. The board consists of 32 chess squares, each measuring 130 by 130 cm. Each field can be connected to its diagonally adjacent neighbours by metal rings, while buttons attached to it help a user wear it as a garment. The remaining 32 squares of this chess board are created by the surface underlying the chessboard, whatever it may be: a grass field, the floor of a building or wherever else the tiles are laid out.”

And the inspiration: “The design of the chessboard combines an iconography of ‘power’ (whatever that means precisely nowadays), of geopolitics (power relations on a global scale), and fashion. Fashion can be considered a natural counterpart to geopolitics: its codes of communication and means of production inherently narrate the dynamics of the world through the spectre of visual obsessions and consumption patterns—a game made real.”

By fashion, Metahaven is looking at a wider meaning of the word, the so-called ‘post-Internet’, ‘New Aesthetic’, or ‘Tumblr aesthetic’, one of user-generated content, a mishmash of imagery free from any graphic designer’s input, full of pixelated, distorted proportion, crude colour and oddly juxtapositioned motifs. Now this ‘New Aesthetic’ has been adopted by mainstream advertising - what can replace it? Are we stuck with it?

Metahaven see conflict, war and terrorism moving along the same lines, as governments see any online criticism as a potential threat and the reality of whether a user is a ‘serious’ threat or not is unclear. With the future of politics moving further into the world of cyberconflict, Metahaven takes this theory onto the chessboard, noting: “Real life board games have been played since centuries. Similarly, Nomadic Chess depends on the human as a player, and makes the game wearable. The combination between iconography, wearability, playability and sculptural quality aims to create a relationship between what we see on our computer screens and the ground that we walk on.”

Main image: Metahaven, Nomadic Chess, installation view at La Chapelle des Jésuites, Chaumont, 2013 photo Killian Loddo
Other images: 1-3 - Metahaven, Nomadic Chess, installation view at La Chapelle des Jésuites, Chaumont, 2013 photo Samuel Kita 4 - Metahaven, Nomadic Chess (Google+), chess piece on model, 2013 photo Killian Loddo 5  - Metahaven, Nomadic Chess (Bitcoin), chess piece on model, 2013 photo Killian Loddo

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