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  • Yoko Ono

White Chess Set

1966
Wood
35.43 inch x 15.75 inch x 16.54 inch
ehemals Sammlung Hahn/Former Hahn Collection, Köln/Cologne erworben/acquired in 2004
Inventory number: P 624/0

“I feel altogether ready to become the chess maniac—everything around me takes the form of the knight or the queen, and the outside world has no other interest for me rather than its transposition into winning or losing positions,” wrote Marcel Duchamp, a passionate tournament player. The fascination that comes from chess lies in the strategic application of rules that leave no room for chance and that demand crystal clear thinking from players. These principles are diametrically opposed to the idea of Fluxus art, and this led some Fluxus artists to refer to and reinterpret chess. Takako Saito’s chess sets, for instance, require sharpened senses, since the figures can only be distinguished through smell, weight, or sound. Yoko Ono went a step further. With her chess set, created in 1966, which included both board and pieces, all in uniform white, she produced a paradoxical situation that demonstrated the absurdity of traditional dualistic thinking in categories of winners and losers, victors and vanquished. An inscription at the underside of the board states: “Chess set for playing as long as you can remember where all your pieces are.” The uniformity of the pieces subverts the protagonists’ oppositional relationship. Ono transforms chess, originally invented as a game of war several thousand years ago, into a form of peaceful unity. When Yoko Ono presented her white chess set in her exhibition in the Indica Gallery in London, she met her future husband John Lennon, with whom she went on to promote peace in numerous activities worldwide.