棋館棋
Chess House is MINE!
(Շախմատի տան իմն է!)

  •  

    展覽及發表 Exhibition & presentation:

    二零一七年五月,<蘇維埃石屎>展覽及講座,艺鵠,香港 | May 2017, ‘Buildings of the Big Brother’ exhibition and talk, ACO, Hong Kong

    June 2016, Tigran Petrosian Chess House and Circular Park, Yerevan, Armenia

     

    A game of public space versus privatisation for Tigran Petrosian Chess House, Yerevan

     

    0_ChessHouseGame_cover

    gamerule_combine

    Game instruction (click to enlarge)

     

    ‘Chess House is MINE!’ is a game about Tigran Petrosian Chess House, Khanjyan Street, Yerevan and its surrounding area. The game is derived from a series of research, and reveals the issues of preservation of Soviet modernist architecture and the privatisation of these buildings and other public spaces in Yerevan and across the post-Soviet states.

     

    Background

    1_ChessHouse_outlook

    Tigran Petrosian Chess House (left) and Tashir Pizza (right)

    2_ChessHouse_GF2

    Basement of the Chess House

    3_ChessHouse_playing_r

    Ground floor of the Chess House.  People gather and play chess.

    4_ChessHouse_3F

    Tournament Hall, second floor of the Chess House

     

    Tigran Petrosian Chess House in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, was opened in 1970. It is named after Tigran Petrosian, a former world chess champion from the country. The building is a typical (late) Soviet modernist architecture with a special triangular outlook. It situates in the Circular Park in downtown Yerevan. The Chess House hosts chess tournaments. Public can play chess in the building in an undisturbed environment.

    The Soviet regime promoted chess as a tool of ideological control (1). In many Soviet cities, there are buildings dedicated to the sport. In Armenia, not only chess playing has had a long history before Soviet colonisation (2), the country has numerous world champions of the game. Nowadays, chess remains widely popular – one may say it is a pride of the Armenians.

    The study on Tigran Petrosian Chess House is an investigation of the history and change of Soviet modernist architecture and chess in the post-Soviet society of Yerevan.

     

    Research

    YerevanChessHouse_Pattern_horizontal

    Patterns collected in and around the Chess House: the first three rows are original patterns of the Chess House and the fourth is that of Tashir Pizza.

     

    The research of the Chess House is from architectural, spacial and historical perspectives through visits, documentation, archival research and interview with professionals.

    Compared to many other Soviet modernist buildings in Yerevan that have been largely privatised, distorted, abandoned or simply demolished, the Chess House has retained much of its architecture and functions, which is rare in Yerevan. Some suggest the fact that Serzh Sargsyan, current President of Armenia, is the head of Chess Federation of Armenia explains the relative intactness of the Chess House.

    Nonetheless, privatisation has also taken place in the Chess House: part of the complex, a concave triangular area with sculptures of chess pieces, has become Tashir Pizza, a restaurant chain. The sculptures are relocated to the entrance of the restaurant. Thus, half of the Chess House is actually lost to privatisation.

    Further, after Armenia gained independence in 1991, in the surroundings of Chess House in Circular Park have seen outdoor cafes and restaurants privatising the area.  In fact, the process of privatisation and commercialisation is interwoven with its Soviet past when almost no space was private.

     

    Game

    7

    8_Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 下午07.06.17 copy

    Game play at the park outside the Chess House

     

    The followings from the research are put into the creation of the game:

    1) The triangular shape of the Chess House;
    2) The loss of half of the building to a restaurant chain;
    3) Privatisation of the surrounding area of the Chess House.

    The game play of Reversi is used to illuminate the constant conflict between the public and private (commerce) for space in the city.

    Unlike Reversi, the disks are in triangular shape (like the Chess House), making captures more dynamic. The disks have two sides – wood and glossy, representing the Chess House and Tashir Pizza the restaurant chain respectively. The placement of the disks at game start reflects the actual situation of the Chess House and the surroundings: Chess House’s smaller half taken by Tashir Pizza, surrounded by other recently commercialised spaces.

    The game board becomes Yerevan; the disks become the space and architecture that the players scramble for. The game play itself becomes a rivalry for space in the city.

    ‘Chess House is MINE!’ was brought into the Chess House and the Circular Park to engage the public and arouse attention to the issues of privatisation of the Chess House and Yerevan.

     

    9_Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 下午07.08.48 copyGame play right in the Chess House

    6

    IMG_6938_r

    Display at ACO, Hong Kong, May 2017

     

    The project is twinned with ‘Chess Palace’s CheckmateS’, a game based on research in The Chess Palace, Tbilisi, Georgia.

     

    (1) Soviet Chess 1917-1991, Andrew Soltis, 2015 (2000), 978-0-7864-9758-4

    (2) Orbeli, Joseph; Trever, Kamilla (1936). Шатранг. Книга о шахматах [Shatrang: The Book of Chess] (in Russian). Saint Petersburg: State Hermitage. p. 195. OCLC 82233681

     

    Reference: 

    Blank Zones in Collective Memory or the Transformation of Yerevan`s Urban Space in the 60s, Ruben Arevshatyan, 2010

    The Contradictory 60s: Empire and Cultural Resistance, Hrach Bayadyan, 2010

    Short Essays on Post-Soviet Yerevan, Hrach Bayadyan, 2007

     

    Supported by:

    Hong Kong Arts Development Council

    The Home Affairs Bureau, HKSAR

    Art Commune International Artist-in-Residence Programme, Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory, Yerevan

     

    Special Thanks:

    Ruben Arevshatyan

    Sevada Petrossian

    Art Laboratory, Yerevan