Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp by Aaron Tucker

Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp by Aaron Tucker

Publication Date: October 5 , 2017
120 pages
5.25 x 8.75 inches
ISBN 9781771663342

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With an Introduction by Jennifer Shahade

In 1968, avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp and composer John Cage exhibited Reunion, a chess performance that took place in Toronto. Whenever Duchamp or Cage moved a piece, it generated a musical note until the game was transformed into a symphony.

Inspired by this performance, Irresponsible Mediums—poet and academic Aaron Tucker’s second full-length collection of poems—translates Duchamp’s chess games into poems using the ChessBard (an app co-created by Tucker and Jody Miller) and in the process, recreates Duchamp’s joyous approach to making art, while also generating startling computer-made poems that blend the analog and digital in strange and surprising combinations.

Watch the Book Launch and Reading:

Praise for Irresponsible Mediums:

“Ever since the IBM computer Deep Blue vanquished Garry Kasparov in a 1997 match, the odds of the strongest grandmasters beating the strongest computer programs at chess continues to diminish. Even as the popularity of chess soars in many areas, artificial chess intelligence is now assumed dominant. We no longer bother with highly publicized Man vs. Machine matches, because the computers would win too easily. By placing poetry side by side with chess, Aaron Tucker reminds us of a not too distant past when we thought a chess-playing robot was far-fetched, and must and may have a human brain underneath it all.”
—from the Introduction to Irresponsible Mediums by Jennifer Shahade, two time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion

“Marcel Duchamp’s chess games played between 1922-1961 come alive with the Chessbard’s translation of those games into poetry. This wonderful book by Aaron Tucker of (close to) 100 Opening, Middle, and End game moves generated from source poems by the author is a must read for Duchamp scholars, Digital Humanists, video game theorists, and chess fans. The poetry, along with the introduction by Jennifer Shahade, chess professional and co-author of Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess, sets the context for the art and performative aspect of game play.” —Dene Grigar, Professor, Creative Media & Digital Culture; President, Electronic Literature Organization

“Understanding that poetry is a series of moves around a board chequered by language and thought, this book translates champion chess player Marcel Duchamp’s chess games into a series of intriguingly alluring and allusive poems which reveal the leaps, obliques, sacrifices, transformations, gambits and knight’s moves shared by both poetry and chess, two artforms of infinite variation…. As Marcel Duchamp observed, “Beauty in chess is closer to beauty in poetry.” The opposite is also often true. These poems are beautiful gambits that, like the best chess games, delight and intrigue with their elegant and intelligent play.” —Gary Barwin, Winner of the Leacock Medal, and finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and Governor General’s Literary Award for Yiddish for Pirates

Press Coverage for Irresponsible Mediums:

Most Anticipated: Our Fall 2017 Poetry Preview —49th Shelf

“Tucker takes the artist Marcel Duchamp’s chess career as the basis for the poems. This move treats Duchamp’s chess-playing as an artistic practice and the poems become a strange meditation on creativity itself.” —Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press

Whether You Win or Lose: A Review of Irresponsible Mediums —Tim Conley, Canadian Literature

Aaron Tucker is the author of four books, Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp (Bookthug) and the poetry collection punchlines (Mansfield Press) as well as two scholarly texts, Virtual Weaponry: The Militarized Internet in Popular Cinema and Interfacing with the Internet in Popular Cinema (both with Palgrave Macmillan). His current collaborative project, Loss Sets, translates poems into sculptures which are then 3D printed (; he is also the co-creator of The ChessBard, an app that transforms chess games into poems ( In addition, he is a professor in the English department at Ryerson University. More info can be found at