|Pawn Takes Bishop (frames 1-3)
The goal of this project was to create six chess boards inside La Place Emilie-Gamelin. The idea was that each board be big enough to allow chess to be played by humans or at least human sized chess pieces. The fact that the space (also known as Berri Square) is already divided into granite squares, each measuring approx. 30" by 30", provided a convenient starting point. Having done some research into the life of Mother Emilie-Gamelin, the 19th Century founder of the Sisters of Providence religious community, it seemed fitting that a park, that today serves as a sanctuary of sorts to some of the most marginal elements of Montreal's population, be named after someone who dedicated her life in the service of these very same people. While the face of this population may have changed since the 19th century when many of the people that came into the Mother's care were victim's of the cholera epidemic which eventually took the life of Emilie herself, the status of these people as "second-class", dispossessed and generally unwanted remains the case today. And while cholera may have long been vanquished, this population is faced with other "epidemics" such as drugs, HIV and a general economic trend that continues to widen the gap between rich and poor. Despite the example of people like Emilie-Gamelin there seems to be a prevailing attitude, especially among those with "World-Class City" ambitions, that sees this segment of the population as a nuisance, a blight, an eye-sore, an embarrassment and therefore something to be "swept under the carpet" rather than considered as fellow human beings. Recently, I've been thinking of ways to imbue what is essentially an immobile medium (painted images) with movement. In the case of the chess boards I thought it would be interesting to treat each board, which is nothing more than a checkered square, as the frame of an animated sequence as in the case of a comic strip or film. The depicted sequence is the simple gesture of a hand picking up a pawn and knocking over a bishop: pawn takes bishop. The movement which in reality would happen in the space of a second or two is portrayed over the course of six frames. This simple chess move could be read as just that: a simple chess move. But it could also be interpreted in an allegorical sense. When I was first asked to participate in this project that was to be carried out in "Place Emilie-Gamelin, " I had no idea where this was. It wasn't until I was told that this was the original name for "Berri-Square" that I realized where the installation would be taking place. It got me thinking about how many place names in Quebec are named after religious figures despite the fact that today, Quebec is statistically one of the most secular provinces in Canada. And in a province where churches are being converted into condominiums and religious relics are referred to only when cursing it struck me that the secularism that exists today still bears the stamp of Catholicism. "Pawn takes bishop" is therefore a metaphor for this moment in history when the individual, represented by the pawn is drawn by global economic and social forces such as capitalism which is represented by the hand, to knock over the the "old guard" or the Church which in this case is represented by the bishop. If the scope of human history is compared to a typical chess match then this particular power shift was indeed a mere moment ( the time it takes to move a chess piece) in time but one that I as an outsider I feel still reverberates to this day. The "game" is at another stage but the layout of the board is the consequence of previous moves throughout history. And while power shifts occur and strategies are played out, the pawn remains whether it be the business man/woman, the blue-collar worker, the artist or the people that line up daily in Place Emilie-Gamelin to receive food from the Salvation Army truck just as they might have back in the 19th century outside the door of Mother Emilie herself.