UMPRUM’s Studio K.O.V., under the leadership of Eva Eisler, is presenting itself at the Munich Jewellery Week 2017.
8. –14. 3. 2017
MUNICH JEWELLERY WEEK 2017
Welserstrasse 11, München
The Game of Chess According to the Students of Studio K.O.V.
text by Adam Štěch
The game of chess is a remarkable phenomenon. Is it a sport or a game? Is it a brilliant intellectual process or a banal game with little figures? Chess is basically the human life compressed in time, a miniature scene and symbol of important decisions in life, strategies, wins and losses. On 64 spaces the chess players can play out a ravishing and thrilling game like in a dramatic novel or real stories of adventurers, romantics, dreamers, rulers, fighters, beggars and artists.
Garry Kasparov, the most famous chess player in history, describes chess as a dramatization of our lives in his memoirs, a game which provided him with endless possibilities for self‑realization in real life. He fought for his first world title in 1984 for an unbelievable period of five months. It was the same length of time that the students of K.O.V. Studio at the Academy of Art, Architecture and Design had to create their own chess figures and chessboards. Professor Eva Eisler, the head of the studio, assigned this theme based on her love for playing chess and its magic which consists of the interconnections between real practical existence and the inner intellectual life. Do we move around in real life the same way we play with the figures on the chessboard?
This complex task encourages the students to a much broader consideration of the theme, which extends far beyond the actual form of the game and its function. The vision of how to respond to chess is associated with a general understanding of the game, its strategy and the analogy to the fields of politics, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy and art, which, it goes without saying, has always had a close relationship to chess.
In the artistic milieu the game of chess became famous mainly through the Surrealists who found the magic, thrill and imagination in it which they sought out in all aspects of life. Primarily, there was Marcel Duchamp, who was an avid chess player and devoted so much energy to the game at the end of his life that it had an adverse effect on his art career. Apart from Duchamp chess inspired a number of other artists including Man Ray, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and the American sculptor Alexander Calder. The interest of the interwar avant‑garde in the phenomenon of chess culminated in 1944 in the New York gallery Julien Levy, where the exhibition “Images of Chess” took place, and where, in addition to the works of the Surrealists, purely pragmatic designs by the Bauhaus teacher Josef Hartwig were displayed, as well as the organically‑shaped chess table by the then young sculptor Isamu Noguchi. One of the prototypes of the table has recently been sold at the Wright Auction House for unbelievable sum of $233,000.
Chess also became a subject for designers. Chess tables have been designed by the master of French Art Deco Émile‑Jacques Ruhlmann, the decorator for celebrities Jean‑Michel Frank or the miraculous child of the Postmodern Philippe Starck. And it is this golden era of chess masters, the obscure games of the Surrealists and the elegance of the Modern masters that the current works by the students from K.O.V. studio at the Prague Academy stem from. Altogether they created 22 chess sets. The selection of materials and the overall approach was quite broad. Each of the students created the game according to their own ideas, from the use of architecturally statuesque elements to the search for the meaning of the game in everyday objects, the beauty of raw materials and the symbolism of natural forms.
Pure aesthetics dominates the chess board by Marianna Berecová who created stackable figures in the form of metal cones. Karin Kopecká modeled the silhouette of a city in elements made of wood, similar to the work by Veronika Muráriková. Lucie Mičíková designed simple wooden tokens with symbols of chess scores. In these works, clearly articulated shapes create both playing fields and essential archetypal values which appear throughout the game.
On the other hand, the organic nature of materials is emphasized in the round stones used by Jessika Hoffmeisterová, the balancing figures by Kateřina Michálková or the set based on Inuit folk tales by Veronika Watzková, materialized souls by Marie Nina Václavková or the iron castings by Barbora Moravcová. In these works, the game of chess is transformed into a diverse spectacle of natural elements. We also find natural elements in other artists’ chess games. Kristián Kitzberger created a wrestling match of gigantic insects, while Zdeněk Skrejval revealed morbid shapes in the beautiful organic forms of ginger roots, which he coated in red and black rubber. Andrea Jarošová, for a change, created an edible chess set, the figures are hors d’oeuvres pinned on decorative metal toothpicks. In her chess game, Eliška Nováková portrayed a fierce struggle between technical rationalism and the diversity of nature in which real plants fight against their artificial copies.
The typical elegant silhouette of a chess piece is basically a decorative object. It can be an architectural element, it can become a light fixture or a piece of furniture. These decorative qualities are captured in the richly ornate sets made by Sebastian Kitzberger and Linda Vránová who created a chess set out of glass, as well as the works by Ondřej Stára and Šimon Saňák who made both material and formal changes to the classic elegance of the chess pieces.
Perhaps the most popular topic of the whole project was recycling. In this sense we symbolically return to Marcel Duchamp and his concept of the ready‑made. Chi‑Fang Chang assembled an army of figures from various minute containers holding various portions of herbs. Klára Chrudinová made use of all sorts of wooden elements which she set up as unique figures expressing the infinite diversity of each game. In Jakub Křelina’s work, armies of plastic aliens oppose each other. The set made by Anička Galbavá makes it possible to play directly with trash; she used aesthetically improved packaging materials, lids or cardboard toilet paper rolls.
Pavlína Končická has perhaps gone the furthest in her conception. She created a hanging chess set, thus attempting to revise the structure of the game. She fulfilled a concept of the founder of Surrealist movement André Breton, who encouraged artists to not only design new shapes for the figures but to change the game itself. But is it possible with chess? Isn’t it the same as if we tried to change the fate of our lives? Aren’t we, in the end, just figures moving around the board that had already been laid out for us? The game of chess is a model of our being.