13-11-2016 — L’Echiqueté as a tournament ++ with Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin, Antoin Deul, Urok Shirhan and Markha Valenta

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Through the tournament, we dived into “L’Échiqueté,” a trickered version of the chess game created by French artists duo Olive Martin & Patrick Bernier.

Find here a booklet that includes the history and rules of “L’Échiqueté,” as well as the programme of the tournament, both in English and Dutch.

“L’Échiqueté” was inspired by a photograph from the Bernier family archives depicting a ceremony celebrating the constitution of Niger’s Armed Forces and the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Republic of Niger in 1961. This event followed the signing, a few months earlier, of a defence agreement between France and what are now Burkina-Faso and Benin. The agreement stipulated that the French republic would provide material aid and would also allocate troops to help these countries to form their own national armies. In exchange, France would be granted free access to military infrastructures and – in an annex that remained a state secret for years – privileged access to strategic resources such as oil, gas, and uranium.

The martial configuration of the scene, the distribution of elements within it, as well as the black-and-white attire of the key protagonists, have here been translated into a chessboard diagram and a variation of chess called “L’Échiqueté,” or checkered chess. The rules are the same as for traditional chess. But the artists introduce a new rule, which completely turns the “black-and-white” dichotomy of chess on its head: when a piece is captured, it merges with that of its captor, thus producing a new, black and white “checkered” piece.

The players are forced to reconsider the original tactics of the game: how, for example, to deal with a situation in which it is not possible to capture a menacing piece because it belongs to us as well as to our opponent. Or what to think of the fact that in the course of the game, a third player, as an independent opponent, may take charge of the checkered pieces, as the pieces do not really belong to anyone. The work is a clever détournement of traditional oppositional game strategy as well as a sophisticated metaphor on identity politics and related issues of métissage, or intermixing, hybridity, and alterity. It challenges a polarized view of the world as “black and white” and suggests a different way of negotiating opposition.

About the guests

Patrick Bernier & Olive Martin. The collaborative practice of Patrick Bernier and Olive Martin combines writing, performance, installation, photography, and film. Their work centers on issues of hospitality and hosting, and explores the fluctuating, porous nature of identity in the postcolonial, migratory context. They have presented their work in numerous international art venues, including The Belgian Pavilion of the Venice Biennale (2015), the Nouveau Festival – Centre Pompidou (2015), the Witte de With in Rotterdam (2014), the Arcadia University Art Gallery in Philadelphia (2014), and the BAK in Utrecht (2013). They are currently presenting “Wilwildu,” a solo exhibition held at Grand Café in Saint-Nazaire (France) until 31 December 2016.

Antoin Deul is chair person of Ninsee the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery and Legacy. He is a public speaker addressing issues like racial equality. He also is a water scientist and an environmental activist.

Urok Shirhan (NL/IQ) holds an MA in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths University, London and a BFA from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam. In 2012/2013 she was a fellow at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut, Lebanon. Her work deals with the politics of image-making and the (sometimes violent) legacies that are perpetuated through visible and invisible representations. Working mainly with video and text, her research at the Jan van Eyck Academie has further explored the performative aspects of her practice.

Markha Valenta lives in Amsterdam and works at Radboud University Nijmegen. Her current work concerns the politics of religion and culture in global cities, international relations and secular democracies, with a focus on north America, western Europe, and India. A corresponding concern of the last decade has been the accommodation and discrimination of Muslim minorities in secular democracies since 9/11. She has also worked for the Scientific Council for Government Policy and is a regular participant in Dutch debates on these issues.