The Queen’s Gambit: Declined. Wilma Cruise in conversation with Jane Taylor*
The Queen’s Gambit: Declined refers to an opening on a chess board. White offers a pawn to black which if accepted effectively opens the centre of the board for white to take control.
Off course the offer can be declined and herein lies the metaphor. Black need not follow the prescribed rules and can in effect decline the gambit.
The refusal to play along allows for a feminist reading, but also refers to the politics between human and the other animal as we creatures compete for the same spaces and resources. The need is pressing for us to decline the status quo.
Chess has been an ongoing metaphor in my work for well on a decade. Especially played out in the imaginary unsolvable game that underpins Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Her journey through the chequered landscape takes her on surprising deviations but she finally reaches the 8th square where she transmogrifies from pawn to Queen.
In a sculpture and a small etching, I depict two baboons playing chess. Entitled End Game, the images are ciphers of humankind in the throes of the 6th Extinction. The rhetorical question implied by the title is, “How are we, baboons and humans alike, going to manage our game at the end of the apocalyptic Anthropocene?”
* The Queen’s Gambit: Declined was intended for exhibition at CIRCA, Johannesburg in April 2021. But, the COVID crisis intervened and The Queen’s Gambit: Declined is yet to be realised in other than a virtual space. Thus the conversation with Jane Taylor on the Queen’s Gambit is based chiefly on images from the 2020 exhibition, 1984: Fight or Flight? Recycle Re-use Re-con(figure), which was shown at the Everard Read Gallery, in Cape Town, in May 2020.