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Richard Downes - disability arts online
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More Yoko No 3 - Move It / 26 June 2012

It is a long walk from Tottenham Court Road Tube to the Serpentine Gallery. Made harder by an unusually hot summer's day. I wander whilst I wonder and wonder whilst I wander. Mostly I'm wondering am I going the right way. I've passed the Serpentine before. It's over there somewhere. It does seem a long way and a long time wandering. The new building surrounded by workmen's boundaries confuses further. I plod on wondering why I never depend on maps when I should and why it always comes good in the end.

 

Somehow I am behind the Serpentine. Yoko's Chess Piece is in front of me.  A public installation. An all white board with all white pieces. Children play with it. Obeying the ancient instruction to play with trust and joy. Father watches son carry a king by his sceptre and a queen by her crown, simultaneously removing both from the board. Surely that's not allowed. The remaining white king and queen stand where they started - unmoved; not attacking, nor like the england football team forever in defence, never making moves. In chess white moves first. It is a convention. But which of the 32 whites, which side, and why is the straight, traditional formation being kept.

 

Indeed, how do you play this game. The board is white. The pieces are not constrained by squares. There is no reason why they should move in the accepted way. How do you enter a contest here? How to compete? Remove the barriers. Change the rules. What happens?

 

I want this to go even further now. Change the shape of the board. Make it circular. Change the shape of the pieces. Why should this even be chess? Stop this idea of taking. Play the game to mingle. Conjoin indistinct communities. Work the game away from war, battle.

 

Maybe its no longer about attack, winning, beating. Maybe shapes, shadows, and signs create new trusts, new joys. Look, king to pawn are fundamentally no different.  Castles are not neurotic, knights not psychotic, bishops not despotic. Status is gone. Movement is free. This is the nutopian ideal of the chess board. There are no countries, no passports, no flags.

 

 

"We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NUTOPIA.
Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of NUTOPIA.
NUTOPIA has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people.
NUTOPIA has no laws other than cosmic.
All people of NUTOPIA are ambassadors of the country.
As two ambassadors of NUTOPIA, we ask for diplomatic immunity and recognition in the United Nations of our country and its people.

Yoko Ono Lennon
John Ono Lennon

Nutopian Embassy
One White Street
New York, New York 10013
April 1st 1973"

The national anthem of NUTOPIA has no sound and only lasts 3 seconds. Its flag is white and cannot be seen against a cloudy, cumulus sky. Nutopia like the chess set cannot be invaded, nor beaten, only occupied by you and me. I have spent time in Nutopia. I have built a social model there. I have spent time in Nutopia. I have found rights there. I have spent time in Nutopia, no abuse, no hate crime there. Should you imagine Nutopia on an all white chess board what will you see there?

Keywords: chess piece,nutopian national anthem,serpentine gallery,yoko ono