A Queen’s Gambit Declined in Second Life

MetaLES: Queen's Gambit Declined by Rebeca Bashly
MetaLES: Queen’s Gambit Declined by Rebeca Bashly

Just opened at MetaLES is Queens Gambit Declined, a new installation – with some familiar motifs – by Rebeca Bashly.

The title is drawn from one of the classic opening moves of chess, wherein the player using the black pieces can respond to the white player’s opening Queen’s Gambit, by declining the opportunity to capture a proffered pawn, opting instead to defend their own exposed man. However, precisely how title / reference fits with the installation has left me a little bewildered 🙂 .

MetaLES: Queen's Gambit Declined by Rebeca Bashly
MetaLES: Queen’s Gambit Declined by Rebeca Bashly

Two great stone towers, perhaps the last remnants of some gigantic bridge, rise from the waters of the flooded region, their appearance slightly reminiscent of Manhattan’s famous Brooklyn Bridge.

Suspended between these by massive chains, sits an enormous circular stone platform, its top occupied by a large hedged maze. Above this, and also tethered to the remnants of the bridge by heavyset ropes, floats a massive heart, similar in nature to the one seen in Rebeca’s When Life Gives You Apples … Run (which I reviewed here), but with arteries and veins bearing rose-like thorns.

Transparent walkways link the bridge towers to the platform, allowing visitors to explore the maze, in which sit a number of artefacts: three busts with transparent foreheads inside of which lie objets d’art; two snow globes with tiny scenes within and wrapped around them; and four rose-like plants, their flowers forming lips, all geometrically positioned within the maze.

At the centre of the maze a female figure kneels fully bent over within a pool of red. Her back is to the sky, a green shoot rising upwards from it, reaching towards the floating heart. When looked at from above, this figure, in the centre most circle of the  maze, appears to be cupped within a slightly lopsided Venus symbol formed by the surrounding hedge (although this could be an accident of design, rather than symbolic).

Nor is this all. sitting atop the second of the bridge towers  is a black chess pawn. Touch it, and you’re carried up into the heart itself, and a dark-walled place in when sits a series of tear-drop containers held within metal structures, particles falling slowly within them. Meanwhile, under the circular platform sits a huge black pawn, it’s base forming the basin in which the kneeling figure at the centre of the maze resides.

MetaLES: Queen's Gambit Declined by Rebeca Bashly
MetaLES: Queen’s Gambit Declined by Rebeca Bashly

Touring the installation, I kept being drawn to the ideas of birth, growth and life, and renewal – ideas that also immediately struck Caitlyn when we visited together. Quite how these are related by to chess and the Queen’s Gambit Declined, however, is something which escaped us both.

Perhaps this is part of the purpose in the piece: to offer enigmatic hints at possible interpretations. One thing is sure, however you look at Queen’s Gambit Declined, it offers a fascinating and intriguing installation.

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