Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Game of Chess

I was never a competent chess player, & haven't played for many, many years. But I've always been intrigued by the chess board, its numeracy – 4³ or 8² squares – the layout, the lines of fight, the moves.

Its construction carries with it an unlimited series of directions in which one can move, not necessarily linearly, think of the knights' moves, the act of castling. & if you fill those squares with words, randomly selected, then a set of conjunctions can be created, not necessarily meaningful, but often promising just that.

I've done a few visual poems along those lines. Filling up all the squares, not just those that the chess pieces initially occupy. The structure, the sameness of it, inhibits multiple outputs, so I've permitted myself only four over the past two years. Too many & the words, their combinations, would be over-whelmed by their surroundings, would become meaningless.

The first one, published in the New Zealand print journal brief was conceived as a homage to Marcel Duchamp, a great chess player, & named in honour of his The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even. The poem below, Erudite Singer, (click on the image to enlarge)appeared in Crag Hill's print journal Spore 2.0. Geof Huth generously wrote of it - &, as usual, succinctly nailed the concept:
"Mark Young produces a simple visual poem entitled “Erudite Singer,” which consists of a checkerboard pattern of white and black squares covered with black and white words. The set up of the words encourages us to read the poem in multiple directions as we hunt for sense, for some linear syntax that we don’t quite find—every line of sense runs out before it gets far. But this pulsing network of whites and blacks, of words and shapes, ends up giving us a vague but palpable impression, and we are moved as we read from “erudite” in the upper left corner to “singer” in the bottom right corner."

Erudite Singer (2005)

I have allowed myself only one variation, taking a point in a real chess game & placing the words in the positions they would be if they were the real pieces. I had the idea that it would be nice to track each of the moves as they occurred, but in a static setup, board by board, this would become boring, the proverbial watching paint dry. So I contented myself with just the original all squares filled in, & the progress report.

Marko Niemi came across a couple of the pieces I had in xStream, and, after translating them into Finnish, included them in the wonderful series of vispo that he has up at Nokturno. But now he's gone further, & has produced a kinetic piece called Tzara vs Breton, 1921, inspired by my chess pieces, but with all the moves in.

Marko writes:
" In fact, the Maori words are from a poem named "Toto-Vaca" by Tzara which can be found at soundimage/Tzara.html. I didn't even know it's Maori, and also wondered how you were able to recognize the language, but then I made some googling and found out that Maori is (or at least has been?) spoken in New Zealand so I guess that might be the reason it looks familiar to you? A funny thing with it is that it somewhat resembles Finnish, for instance "te" means "you" (in plural) in Finnish, "he" means "they," and "kivi" means a "rock."

The black Breton words are from his poem "Toutes les écolières ensemble" and its English translation. And the moves used in the pieces are from the first game of the first match between Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov, in 1996, the first ever game to be won by a computer against a world champion (although Kasparov eventually won the first match). "
I don't know if the Tzara piece is all Maori - &, by the way, New Zealand is now officially bilingual – since I don't recognise some of the words, but there's enough Maori words there to claim it as such.

It's fantastic to see something you only ever thought about made real. Thank you for the piece, Marko, & thank you for dedicating it to me.


Rebeka Lembo said...

Pure genius. Thank you for sharing it. I love it!

Antonia said...

This is so amazing. I've been reading about magic squares and this is truly one.