Screwed Moves -”Any Body Can Get It” by Danica Radoshevich Illustration by Marcis Curtis Civil-Ape.Com
Chess is likely to summon images of stuffy rooms, tweed and dim lights, silence and reverie, a strict adherence to rules and quiet, lonely thought, nerd squad to old world, lukewarm coffee. Drop those connotations. The Chess Hall of Fame and Screwed Arts Collective have come together to inspire a different, more astute look at chess.
Screwed Arts Collective, a local Saint Louis group, unveiled the finished “Screwed Moves” project on September 28th, at the World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End, however, the space was open 24 hours a day for the two weeks the installation took to complete. This project reflects the particular, very literal cooperative artistic process of Screwed Arts. While the World Chess Hall of Fame has exhibited the work of nationally and internationally recognized artists, with their newest show, their focus has finally shifted to local artists. By hosting and exhibiting a site-specific, large scale installation project, produced by the local artists of Screwed Arts (Christopher Burch, Daniel Burnett, Stan Chisholm, Christopher Harris, Daniel Jefferson, Kris Mosby, Jason Spencer, Justin Tolentino and Bryan Walsh), the Hall of Fame has likewise fostered and tapped into a creative process that serves as an almost perfect analogy for Chess. The completed work is a very large scale installation, with a myriad of layers of drawn and painted elements. The scale and complexity of the piece engulfs the viewer, and stands on its own, managing to disclose its collaborative construction in its compositional dynamism. But the performative aspect of its production, witnessed by the viewers who visited during its installation and captured with time-lapse videos are just as essential to the project as the finished work itself. The public was encouraged to observe the ongoing process of layering, erasing and relating visual information. The group began this project as they would any other: they met to introduce and explain their individual ideas for the project, and subsequently developed a series of creative constraints to work within. Christopher Burch explains that “We find that in order to work well together and create a overall “sense” within the wall . . . parameters are needed. . . More often than not we choose to limit the color palette.” For two weeks, the artists worked tirelessly, in constant visual conversation with each other, limited to red, white and black paint. Burch explains that Screwed Arts Collective “lives and dies by the rule that ‘Any Body Can Get It’” which simply means that no one individual’s mark or image is greater than the whole.” This practice strongly parallels chess; as each artist works responsively within a fixed set of rules and constraints, so the chess master maintains an intuitive knowledge of complex, fixed rules while responding and adapting to their opponents strategy, as it unfolds. Each artists’ decisions are constrained by predetermined, fixed rules, but are patently transformed by their conversational and contextual relationship to other artists marks, images, and visual decisions. Burch explains this process of layering and building up imagery; “Each erasure, or “cover up” adds to the texture of the surface, making the wall a recorder of the hand, of time, and the performance itself.” Opening the process up to the public was a conceptually essential “underpinning” of Screwed Moves. The openness of the gallery during the production/installation process underlines how difficult it is to classify this work. Screwed Moves could easily be called a site-specific installation, a drawing, a painting, and a performance. The group wanted to avoid obvious, kitschy visual allusions to the game of chess. Rather, the compositional and processual foundation of the work successfully parallels the compelling dynamism and complexity of chess strategy. These artists, with their distinct visual styles, have expanded on their individual creative processes by incorporating and responding to each others’ work within certain material and conceptual constraints. Screwed Arts Collective’s creative praxis manages to readily articulate something fairly subtle and enigmatic about chess. This kind of site-specific, dynamic, cooperative work is characteristic of the grassroots developments in the Saint Louis arts scene. The World Chess Hall of Fame was wise to look to its immediate surroundings for artistic talent -- hopefully more businesses and organizations will follow suit.