Matthew Visyak's Domain

Erasist Chess - Mixed Media


The artwork discussed on this page contains many aspects that some viewers might find disturbing and racially charged. This work was made as a counter stance to racism and stereotyping by presenting both current stereotyped views on the subject as well as alternative views to get the audience engaged within the work. These art works were developed through the guidance of highly educated faculty members and the works were deemed successful in their intended outcomes. The racial and stereotypical views displayed in these works are not the personal views of the artist or the faculty members who served as advisors.

This was a project that I completed for the art and the environment class at Allegheny College. This project was one of the more interesting art works I have created. We were given one or more objects and had to create a work that utilized these objects. My medium was erasures.

I choose to stick with the common theme of addressing racism through my art. I begin the process by carving the individual erasures into figurines of different ethic backgrounds. The figurines were carved as stereotyped versions of the different races. From that point I decided to have the audience engage the work and interact with the pieces. My solution was to make this into a playable game.

I choose the well known game of chess to become the vehicle of my message about the effects of racism. Chess is a game of two conflicting sides were the object of the game is to remove the other player's king piece and take out other pieces that get in the way. This seemed like the best and most direct way of describing the effects of racism.

The next task was to create a chess board for the pieces to be played on. I wanted to stray away from the standard checker board pattern and have the space on the board emphasize the massive effect of racism. The best way of doing this was to type out all the racial slurs that I could gather and place them on the board. The board had multiple layers of over 2000 racial slurs gathered primarily from the internet. I alternated the foreground and back ground colors for every other square region of the board creating the checkerboard pattern. The board was covered with a layer of Plexiglas and placed within a crafted oak frame, polished to a smooth finish.

The sculptural quality of the piece drew people toward it anticipating a chess board, but it was the finer details of the pieces and the board that displayed the message. The work was successful and people who played the game found themselves reacting to the work through discussion. Most viewers were shocked that there were so many racial slurs present in today's society and this made them internalize their feelings on the subject.

After the student art show, the Erasist Chess work was purchased by the college and placed in the Grounds for Change Coffee shop. I thought this was fitting because of the self-reflective quality of the coffee shop's atmosphere. Most students came here to study and have quiet conversations.

Pieces from the game board have disappeared over the course of the years and have been replaced with standard glass chess pieces. Normally one would find such an act disheartening, however, I am pleased that people cared enough to interact with the work and that the work invoked such a reaction.