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Jennifer on Anatomy is Destiny in Saint Louis Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
February 29, 2012
Photo Sarah Carmody - www.carmodyphoto.com
Lilliya Lifanova's eye-catching installation Anatomy is Destiny greeted visitors to the World Chess Hall of Fame  in the exhibition, "Out of the Box: Artists Play Chess", curated by Dr. Bradley Bailey. The last time I'd visited the spectacular new institution was during the Grand Opening, concurrent with the K v. Q: A Battle of the Sexes in Saint Louis. I was anxious to catch up with everyone at the Hall of Fame and the Saint Louis Chess Club during a less hectic time, so I attended the Anatomy is Destiny performance on February 15.

The piece came to life in a collaboration between the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Contemporary Art Museum STL, also known as "CAM". If you recognize some of the interiors from the photos, it may be because the STL Chess Club had previously partnered with CAM, for the opening ceremonies of the 2009 US Women's Championships.

A packed house of chessplayers and art lovers watched as Lifanova and Bailey conducted a Q+A prior to the performance. They touched on previous iterations of the performance, how the piece came to the World Chess Hall of Fame and weeks of rehearsals for the Saint Louis performance with choreographer Davy Bisaro.

After the discussion an elongated pause built tension before 32 dancers found their squares on the chessboard. Accordingly to Lilliya, the costumes approximated the powers of each chess piece and particularly, their restrictions (for instance, many of the pieces had their hands bound.)

Photo Sarah Carmody - www.carmodyphoto.com
The game depicted was a fictional contest between chessmaster Marcel Duchamp & his female alter-ego Rrose Selavy, imagined in 1972 by the artist Arman. The moves were gorgeously performed and I particularly enjoyed the diagonal dances of the bishops and the athletic leaps of the knights. I've worked with amateurs before on chess performances and exhibitions and it can be difficult to get details right. So I was blown away by the combination of accuracy and inspiration in the piece. Kudos to Lifanova, Bisaro and the dancers, who were Saint Louis locals.

Each time a piece from the opposite army was captured, the entire opposing army (including pieces/dancers who were already captured) chanted excitedly, regardless of the quality of the trade. The final position was deadlocked with just a few pawns for each side remaining. The kings shrugged at each other, ending the piece in a comic way. As a chess coach, I found instructive value. There is way too much mindless bloodshed (trading pieces) in amateur chess games.

At the CAM event, also with World Chess Hall of Fame director Susan Barrett. Photo Sarah Carmody - www.carmodyphoto.com

Starting March 9th, 2012 at the World Chess Hall of Fame, the exhibitions Marcel Dzama Endgame and Bobby Fischer: Icon Among Icons Photographs by Harry Benson will open. Find out more on the official website, worldchesshof.org and the press release as posted on uschess.org. Join the conversation with USChess and the World Chess Hall of Fame on twitter.