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DADALENIN, CHESS GAME, Spassky-Fischer, Game 21, Reykjavik, Iceland 1972, 1916/2013
For nearly a quarter of a century chess was dominated by the supremacy of the Soviet Union, for whom the game seemed to be an intrinsic part of the political system. In 1972, the American Bobby Fischer brought this chess dominance to an end and took the World Championship out of the court of the Russians. He defeated Boris Spassky in a highly dramatic and widely reported and watched game in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Though as only a child growing up in Austria, who did not really play any chess and did not yet understand the difference between a capitalist and a communist system, I do still remember the media hype and discussion around this game and the eccentricity of the young Bobby Fischer who made it on the cover of LIFE magazine with the title The Deadly Gamesman. In my childhood memory, Bobby Fischer flashes up with Glenn Gould, another similarly good-looking, enigmatic and eccentric genius in his field and of his time.
Chess – next to the Olympic Games – was the most prominent arena of non-political interaction between the main antagonists of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States. Moscow and the United States of America understood chess as a propaganda tool. A declassified conversation with the journalist David Frost shows how President Richard Nixon himself instigated the happening of the game:
"Richard Nixon: I think if I call him I should just call him and tell him a foreign policy point of view I hope the hell he gets over there.”
In the meantime, the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union and the Cold War are history and computers easily defeat all chess players in the world. Chess games don't make headline news anymore, and the best artists of our time don't give up art anymore for the devotion of chess, as did Marcel Duchamp in the 1920s for many decades.
For this video, I have invited the American Scott Chaiet and Vladimir Mazo, an Ex-Soviet citizen who immigrated to the USA after the end of the Soviet system. Both are elite chess players at the renowned Marshall Chess club, which counted Marcel Duchamp, a former Dadaist as a member. In fact, a rarely known image of Duchamp is hanging unnoticed by most people on the wall with no specific inscription showing him with a small détourné pocket chessboard. It might not have been an accident that this artist chess player moved within a few blocks of this club.
At the Marshall Club, Scott Chaiet and Vladimir Mazo replayed for my camera the famous Reykjavik Chess game with a special set of figures that consists of small Lenin busts. I cast these Lenin figures in porcelain from a bust I acquired on eBay for my work DADALENIN.
video. 15 min