play it by trust (white chess set)
On the surface, Yoko Ono's Play It By Trust seems to be a smart and intuitive critique of the simple binary of war-conflict. By painting all of the pieces and squares white and positioning them in the traditional chess game opening formation, she immediately sets up a tension in which we seem to actually be waging war against ourselves. Once an imagined play begins and the pieces commingle (dare we say miscegenate?), they slowly start to lose their identity of standing opposite the other and the game tentatively suggests a metaphor for peace.
In any examination of chess play, however, we cannot just look at matters on the surface. We must admit the contours and perspectives of the volumetric, just as we must admit the unfolding of a particular linear timeframe while play emerges. Imagine this imagined game becoming material — momentarily — and its players using algebraic notation (eg. Nf3) to track the logistics of movement-play on the board, for even in Ono's chess-world the striations of the grid do still exist.
When the coding of the chess game moves almost strictly to the archival databank the pieces and squares cease to possess an "identity" in any traditional sense, save for abstract locational information at discrete moments in time. They do not stand embodied for anything in particular, save the continual generation of the code. As Deleuze would suggest, they have become dividuals.
Since the entire game could be played via notation at this point — which, in fact, is what happens with computer chess — maintaining any relation to Ono's white pieces remains strictly an exercise in sensuality and the act of touching or moving-with in touch. This is the only reason they need remain. Viewed from this perspective, Ono does not show us a peaceful future world in which the binary oppositions of black versus white cease to exist, but rather demonstrates the ultimate uselessness of the material body in its becoming-information. While at a "surface" level seeming to embrace hybridity and one-ness with the other — in the most postmodern, imperial sense put forth by Hardt and Negri — this chess world remains connected, disconnected and otherwise modulated by streams of data, perspectival vision, and the archive.
And so the question we must ask of Yoko Ono stands insistent: is the game being archived? In the contemporary age of "archive fever," is the game being coded, notated, recorded or inscribed, saved, secured — in short, remembered? If there were no hands moving the pieces around the board, but only the pieces collectively moving themselves, would such archiving occur nonetheless — perhaps automatically, as a new form of instant karma?
play it for as long as you can remember
who is your opponent and
who is your own self. (yoko ono)
Or do we refuse the archive? Do we retain tactility? Do we encounter the inevitable confusion once the board becomes more chaotic during middle and endgames? Do we collectively remember and resolve the confusion?
Do we collectively forget and allow certain memories to slip away, or fade to black?
(thanks to the switch, who is both black and/or white if i remember correctly)