In 2003 as the allied forces were preparing for war in Iraq I posted an image of a reconfigured chess board to chess forums. The pawns were on one side and the higher pieces on the other.
My question was “Under what conditions could the pawns in this game win?”
Rethinking Wargames developed as a participatory net art work. A website documented and illustrated the technical responses of chess pundits alongside more philosophical and political replies from amateur players. It featured many other activist art games and hacks such as Velvet Strike and La Migra and illustrated alternative chess games with rules suggested by participants.
Later that year Catlow a Low-fi net art commission 2003 supported the creation of a new online multiplayer game of 3 Player Chess, in which pawns of both sides (played by a 3rd player) preserve peace by stopping any pieces from being captured. If the pawns succeed in blocking the aggression of the higher pieces, the checkerboard is progressively overgrown with grass and the black and white checks of the battleground disappear in the undergrowth. World Peace is declared.
This work was featured as part of Free Play, a touring exhibition with Cory Arcangel, Mary Flanagan, Yoko Ono and David Shrigley. Curated by Melissa E. Feldman and organized by Independent Curators International (ICI).
Read this interview with Molly Hankwitz (2006) A Chance to Remaster Conflict
Many, many people contributed to this project but special credit is due to Marc Garrett and the Furtherfield Team (for ongoing inspiration and critique), Adrian Eaton (who programmed the new game of pacifist 3-player chess in flash), Carol Webb, Ivan Pope, Maf’J Alvarez, Henry Holland, Charles Cameron (for philosophical and ludic input) and the Low-fi crew for commissioning the online game.
Featured in exhibitions
2014-15, as part of Free Play, a touring exhibition with Cory Arcangel, Mary Flanagan, Yoko Ono and David Shrigley. Curated by Melissa E. Feldman and organized by Independent Curators International (ICI).
2005, RISK, CCA, Glasgow
2004, The Making of Balkan Wars- Personal Cinema, Athens/Madrid
2003, The Baltic, Gateshead and Limehouse Town Hall, London.
Featured in the following books
Upcoming: Richard Barbrook, Class Wargames- Ludic subversion against spectacular capitalism
Mary Flanagan, (2009) Critical Play, MIT Press.
Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito, (2009) At the Edge of Art, Thames and Hudson
2005, Artists Residency – RISK Media Lab, CCA, Glasgow
2005, Artist Residency and Conference – WarGames: Making and Unmaking the World, University of Maine, US