Maarten Vanden Eynde

Check Mate, Digging up the Future, Mu.ZEE, Ostend, Belgium 2021 (photo: Steven Decroos)

Check Mate, Digging up the Future, Mu.ZEE, Ostend, Belgium 2021 (photo: Steven Decroos)

According to legend, the game of chess was invented by a courtier for a king. So delighted was the king by the game that he swore to reward its inventor with whatever he asked for. ‘Just put one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, eight on the fourth, and go on doubling like that till the last square is reached,’ came the answer. The king laughed at this seemingly modest request and ordered it to be fulfilled. But his laughter soon turned to lamentation as it became clear that not all the rice in his kingdom or even in the whole world would fill so much as half the board. Thus the potential peril of exponential growth. Each time 'Check Mate' is exhibited the chessboard is enlarged as a new square is filled with an exponentially increasing number of plastic pellets: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024 (and so on). The work visualises the scale of the problem of plastic pollution – over 300 million tons are produced annually – and at the same time amplifies worldwide efforts to raise awareness and find solutions to this complex and multilayered global threat.

Also known under the more poetic and tragic name ‘mermaid tears’, nurdles are released into the environment, creating unprecedented pollution in the oceans and on beaches worldwide. Currently, nurdles cannot be recycled in general recycling. These plastic pieces are the raw material of nearly all our plastic products, which means they are often made of different types of plastic. 'Check Mate' is a growing installation, a huge chessboard that is gradually filled exponentially with plastic nurdles that are collected around the world by a growing team of volunteers and organisations that hand pick the nurdles during seasonal beach cleanings or after huge nurdle spills that take place regularly. The amount of available and collected nurdles determines the size of the chessboard when it is exhibited, as the last pile needs to spill over the margins of the last used square. During the exhibition of the work, depending on the duration and available budget, an additional effort is made by engaging local, but also international participants, to fill one more square.

At some point in the distant future I hope to arrive at what is notoriously known in technology strategy as “the second half of the chessboard”. Coined by Ray Kurzweil, it represents the point where an exponentially growing factor begins to have a significant economic impact on an organisation's overall business strategy no matter what it does or produces. While the number of grains on the first half of the chessboard is large, the amount on the second half is vastly (232 > 4 billion times) larger.


Check Mate participants :

Aloha Sustainables LLC (Hawaii, US)
Alohasustainables (Hawaï, US)
Annie Graham (Portugal)
Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation (Greece)
Beate K Strømøy (Norway)
Better Buds (Australia)
Bird Aware Solent, Lizze (England, UK)
Blue de gersigny (South Africa)
Chamara Prasad (Sri Lanka)
City Cleaners (Germany)
Claire Ebendinger (France Le Penon, Seignosse)
Claire from Seaborn Design (Wales, UK)
Clare Stone (Ottawa, Canada)
Dailypetrie (Ottawa, Canada)
De Strandhelden, Tim (Ostend, Belgium)
Dr. Franja Prosenc (Slovenia)
Eco Marine (Hong Kong)
Etelka Stoll (France)
Everettweeks1 (Lake Michigan, US)
Extinction Rebellion Sri Lanka and Pearl Protectors (Sri Lanka)
FIDRA (Scotland, UK)
Franja Prosenc (Slovenia)
Frieda Ocean Project (Sardinia, Italy)
Guerilla Plastic, Pippip ferner (Norway)
Guerrilla Plastic by Christine Istad (Sweden)
Inkeri Pekkanen (Finland)
Janis Jones (California, US)
Jill Marks (Oregon, US)
Jose Rafael Castro (Ecuador, South America)
Justagirlcleaningbeaches (Australia)
Kari Prestgaard and Astor Andersen (Norway)
Kerrie, volunteer for the Marine Conservation Society (Edinburgh, UK)
Kerry from KeepNZClean (New Zealand)
Kyra Miller (Melbourne, Australia)
Leone (Hawaï)
Leone from oceankindhi (Hawaii, US)
Lisa Hancox (South Africa)
Mark Stevens (England, UK)
Menos_plastico_es_fantastico (Turtle Mahahual, Mexico)
Michela Pizzo (Pouilles, Italy)
Mingas por el Mar (Equador, South America)
Mishvania from for_the_love_of_our_seas (South Africa)
Neon Joyride Jewellery (Açores, Portugal)
North West Wildlife Trusts (England, UK)
Nurdle Patrol (Texas, US)
Patrícia Krüger (Montevideo, Uruguay)
People On Beaches Picking Up Plastic, Deborah Roberts (Gold Coast, Australia)
pickinupplastic (Australia)
Plastic Free Seas (Hong Kong)
Poseidonspickers (Branksome Chime Beach, England)
Queensferry Rowing Club (Scotland, UK)
Ren Arnold (Devon, UK)
Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang (California, USA)
Rick and Nevine (Abu Dhabi)
Rockingham Beach Cleans (Rockingham beach, Australia)
Saritafernande.s (Goa, India)
Sassa Van Zyl (Jeffreys Bay, South Africa)
Scottish Wildlife Trust (Scotland, UK)
Sea Hugger (California, US)
Sea Shepherd (Australia)
Sea Shepherd (Belgium)
Sharon from jurassicseafinds (UK)
Three.for.the.sea (Scotland, UK)
Tidy Shark, Ana &André (Azores, Portugal)
Vanesa Sousa (Galicia, Spain)
Wild Oceans (South Africa)