Chess & its Regional Variations
In Orthogonal/Diagonal, UCLA alumna Nova Jiang redesigns regional chess variants from Asia and elsewhere, by creating game pieces that sculpturally convey their rules of movement and relative power on the board. Eight of these games were 3D-printed and presented for the public to play with as part of an exhibition.
The variants presented include Chess and its predecessor Shatranj, as well as Makruk (Thailand), Janggi (Korea), Shatar (Mongolia), Sittuyin (Myanmar), Shogi (Japan) and Xiangqi (China). Unlike Western Chess, many of these variants are little known outside their region. Their common ancestor is the ancient Indian game Chaturanga, the exact rules of which are unknown today. Treating each variant as a unique iteration of the same ancient system, the artist aims to reimagine the games as a sculptural ensemble of related forms. The games were displayed on custom CNCed game tables.
Jiang is interested in the spread of games as well as other folk forms across cultures, as well as in their structural and aesthetic mutations. She wishes to redesign the surface of these games by reflecting their underlying systems. Chinese, Korean and Japanese chess are difficult to play for those who cannot read the language. This project helps break down language barriers by encapsulating rules into the the design of the game sets. By stripping away culturally specific references, the viewers can compare the games side by side as abstract systems, exploring their commonalities as well as differences.