SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
An exhibition of a film ( Nummer Twaalf
) by the Dutch artist Guido van der Werve
(born 1977) that chess players might find interesting will be held in Toronto at Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art
between February 4 and April 24. The precise address is :401 Richmond Street West, Suite 124. Information can be found at : +1-416 . 5910357
Guido van der Werve, born in Holland, 1977
The Netherlands Conceptual Performance artist and filmmaker. Studied at The Gerrit Rietveld Academie and The Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Won the Rene Coelho Prize in 2003, was nominated for the Prix de Rome in 2004. Films include, Nummer een Nummer twee, just because I’m standing here doesn’t mean I want to. Nummer drie, take step fall Nummer vier, I don’t want to get involved in this, I don’t want to be part of this, talk me out of it. Nummer zes, Steinway grand piano and all the fucking colors of the Rainbow.
Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Guido_van_der_werve
Guido started to play piano form a young age and joined the pre-year of the Rotterdam Conservatory in 1996. Van der Werve never finished his piano studies and discontinued playing piano. He studied a variety of subjects including Classical Archaeology, Social Geography, Industrial Design and Russian Language and Culture. Van der Werve’s works have been exhibited widely in both solo and group exhibitions, including the Tate Modern in London, De Appel in Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, De Hallen in Haarlem, MoMa New York, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo in Sevilla, Galeria Vermelho in São Paulo, National Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Manifesta 7, the Torino Triennial 2008, the Hayward Gallery London, the Royal Academy London, Kunsthalle Basel, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington. He currently lives in New York.
Guido van der Werve:
King’s Gambits and Artist’s Games
PREFIX ICA, TORONTO
FEB 4 TO APR 24, 2010
by BRYNE MCLAUGHLIN
Guido van der Werve Nummer Twaalf: Variations on a theme: The King’s Gambit accepted, the number of stars in the sky, and why a piano can’t be tuned or waiting for an earthquake 2009 Film still Courtesy of Galerie Juliètte Jongma
On the evening of March 5, 1968, Marcel Duchamp and John Cage sat down in the theatre of Toronto’s Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (now Ryerson University) for a game of chess. It was a one-off event, performed on a customized chessboard conceived by Cage to produce an ambient audioscape modulated by the game’s progressive moves.
The performance, which lasted for more than four hours, was very much a personal exercise for the players—Duchamp had long been a reclusive chess master, and Cage was his student in the game. But the work was also a display of fundamental intellect, transforming the precise stratagems of music and chess into a spontaneous experiment in aural aesthetics.
It’s difficult not to think of Duchamp and Cage’s game and the intertwining complexities of life, art, chess and music when viewing Dutch artist Guido van der Werve’s latest film work, Nummer Twaalf: Variations on a theme: The King’s Gambit accepted, the number of stars in the sky and why a piano can’t be tuned or waiting for an earthquake, currently on view at Prefix ICA.
Guido playing with Grandmaster Leonid Yudasin, from the film
The 40-minute film projection is divided into three “movements,” each opening with van der Werve sitting alone in a small room contemplating statistics, first of the perfect game of chess, then of the number of stars in the visible universe and finally of the vexing impossibility of exactly tuning a piano. The quantities are awesome—for instance, van der Werve reports that it would take 10 x 1050 possible chess matches to finally reach the perfect game, i.e. a draw with both players’ kings still on the board—a beginning that reminds viewers of the limitless boundaries of existential contemplation.
With that mind-numbing appreciation set, each segment then moves into a corresponding film sequence. The artist studied music before turning to art and his composition for a small string orchestra drives the sequences throughout. The first movement picks up on van der Werve’s perfect game theory, showing the artist and his chess mentor sitting in New York’s Marshall Chess Club where, in a nice coincidence, Duchamp was a member.
They’re playing a scripted “perfect” match called “The King’s Gambit”
on a piano chessboard (on view at Prefix until this Saturday, February 13, only) built by van der Werve to sound a different note on each move in subtle, if slightly discordant, harmony with his composed string music. As the game begins and the camera slowly pans out, an interesting contrast is established in the meditative silence—the immediate present of the game is played against an infinite future of unsolvable propositions.
The film’s second movement, prefaced by visible star stats, finds van der Werve trekking through the still devastated landscape of Washington’s volcanic Mount St. Helens. The string music adds a mournful aspect to panoramic views of the barren mountainside, a moving testament to the cataclysmic power of the 1980 eruption, while the random strike of chessboard-piano notes draws the viewer back to the chess game in progress. Van der Werve reaches the peak at dusk and as clouds pass by he sits down to count the stars. It’s a closing shot straight out of a Caspar David Friedrich painting.
In the final movement, van der Werve emerges from his small room, which as the camera slowly zooms out to an aerial view, turns out to be a cabin built in the California desert on top of the San Andreas Fault. It’s another study in contrasts, the paradox of one man’s universal contemplation in the face of pending natural disaster.
The work of another Dutch artist, Bas Jan Ader, resonates in the ether. As the film ends, so does the chess game: in a levelling of sorts, a draw. (124–401 Richmond St W, Toronto ON)
Nummer Elf: The King’s Gambit Accepted, the Number of Stars
PHOTOS FROM THE SHOOTING OF THE FILM