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3 panels, framed
Each panel: 1280mm X 1280mm. Shrapnel (aluminium), paper, sand, stones, wood.

Ching Chong Cha

  • The delightful game of paper, scissors, rock fascinated me all my life and as children we managed to make many decisions based on its outcome - who will get the biggest slice of cake? who goes to the shops? and who can choose first when chocolate slabs are handed out? Paper is stronger than rock, rock is stronger than scissors and scissors are stronger than paper.


    More recently I made the connection that there was more to this game than I had always thought. Paper, scissors and rock as hand gestures are small enough to hide behind our backs, but in fact turned out to be as big as the world in which we live.


    Paper represented something far more profound than a mere sheet of paper suggested in the game by the flat hand facing down. It was all the publications and records of human thinking. Paper is a metaphor for all the good and bad decisions we had ever made. It stood for all the meetings and meditations of our entire history. And in the game, paper triumphs over rock but is weaker than scissors.


    Scissors, forefingers thrust out in the shape of a 'V' in the game, seem to represent a decidedly hazardous device for the breaking-up things. Scissors allude to all the mechanical mechanisms we unleash to sort out problems where thinking and paperwork fail. They are the daggers, swords and guillotines whereby we assassinate and kill each other to win over possessions and arguments. They are the bombs, tanks, stealth aircraft and helicopter gunships we must have to rule. Yet the scissors, it seems, meet their match when pitted against rock.


    Rock, a clenched fist in the game, is the very earth on which we live. We subject it to our thinking and we do with it as we please. We fix borders and roads on it and declare ownership and rights over aspects of its minerals, sea, and air. It is too passive to fight the plundering and pillaging of our mind over its natural resources. It succumbs to our greed and cognitive manipulations. Yet, the earth is ultimately bigger than all our scrapings for profits and our unleashing devastating of military might on its surface. By squabbling over and hogging the fruits of the earth we will ultimately die, depleted from all sustenance. Our earth, however, does not die with us. When we are gone in a few million years, our thoughts and weapons still and our havoc wreaked, the wasted earth will be all that remains.


    In the game of Ching Chong Cha (also called 'Paper, Scissors, Stone'), there are three ways of scoring a victory over an opponent: 1. Scissors beat paper; 2. Paper beats Stone; and 3. Stone beats scissors. In my work Ching Chong Cha I treat the three elements as the deciding factors of human destiny. Stone is viewed as land and minerals. It speaks of borders around countries, land rights and the way we use our land. Paper is viewed as deliberation and negotiation; as minutes of meetings, books or documentation. It reflects on how we govern. Scissors are viewed as military power. The sign of the letter X is enlarged and made up of shrapnel to show how far we are prepared to go to enforce our will in armed combat.


    In panel one, stone triumphs over scissors - but only just. The earth is always going to be there - it might be badly abused and cut up, but it is hardly likely to vanish. In panel two the shrapnel is stronger than paper. It makes no difference that we are clever, or caring - that we have precious thoughts or good intentions. When military might is enforced our valuable human resources are hurt and destroyed. Panel three sees the triumph of thought over the land. Intent and contemplation subjects the land and what it yields to become politically and socially viable. Paper wins over stone, but always only just.

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