Page 14 - Studio International - October 1966
P. 14

On chance and Mark Boyle

      Comment by Jasia Reichardt

       The use of chance may imply tolerance of   unhampered by preconceptions. These two   journey between Düsseldorf and Cologne
       incident and thus an attitude of permissive-  approaches could not be further apart. On   by setting up in a train a camera programmed
       ness. It may, on the other hand, suggest the   this basis one could conclude that the   to take a picture every four minutes, did not
       complete opposite—an attempt to harness   artists who deliberately employ chance in   produce a vastly surprising document. The
       chance to make it a manoeuvrable instru-  their creative activity have as much in   limitations inherent in the system he had
       ment playing some specific part in an art   common as those artists who use red paint.   set for himself were responsible for the
       process. It can also mean a number of     Other classical examples in twentieth   narrowness of the journey's interpretation.
       different things between these two extremes.   century art which manifest the use of chance   The idea itself is more inventive than the
       There are certain generalizations one can   are works by Arp, Tristan Tzara and Max   result, and thereby more significant.
       make about it.                           Ernst. Arp has referred to the 'laws of chance',   Among the manifestations based on chance
        The use of chance implies that the cause   which not only suggests that he envisaged   during the past ten years, including those of
       responsible for a certain effect or outcome is   chance as a structural system, but also that   Mathieu, Dali, Manzoni, Klein and
       unlooked for, or that at least it cannot be   he was aware of it as a limited and limiting   Burroughs, the aleatory systems applied to
       completely specified.                    component in a work of art. The works    interpretations of concrete poetry, musical
        Deliberate use of chance in art has been   which illustrate his laws of chance are the   composition and transformable works of
       manifested in various ways. In technique or   collages begun in 1916, composed of odd   art, one of the most interesting and moving
       method, for instance, as in action painting—  scraps of paper, shuffled, thrown and glued   solutions has been that reached by Mark
       the predetermined elements being the size   exactly as they fell. Tristan Tzara composed   Boyle. The essential attitude at the basis of
       of the painting and the materials or implements  poems by drawing words from a hat, and   his activities is the total acceptance of
       employed. The process of mechanical chance   Max Ernst invented the techniques of   results which these provoke. In relation to
       where the chance element can only produce a   frottage and decalcomania of chance, the   the recent pictures which he calls presenta-
       subtle variation is demonstrated by      latter involving the spreading of ink between   tions, this may not seem surprising—they
       Duchamp's 3 stoppages étalon of 1913.    two sheets of paper, which were then pulled   are aesthetically pleasing (which is
       Duchamp held three pieces of thread one   apart to reveal a fairly unpredictable   irrelevant), and they are original (which
       metre above a canvas and allowed them to   image. The use of chance does not necessarily   isn't, except to Boyle himself). The
       fall freely. The threads were then fixed to   produce surprises. Arp's collages and   presentations are a relatively recent
       the canvas exactly as they had fallen.   Ernst's frottages (rubbings from various   development, so it might be worth while
       Similarly unpredictable methods were     common surfaces like wooden planks), are   initially to consider some of his earlier
       employed for arriving at various forms in   not as unexpected as Tzara's poems, since   attempts at harnessing chance—i.e. the
       his Large. Glass. Given the thickness and   words as material are more immediately   events which he has been organizing since
       length of thread, it is not difficult to imagine   loaded and relative to their sequence and   1963.
       what will happen if it falls from a height of   the context in which they are to be found.   As the word 'Happening' suggests a
       one metre, but it is much more difficult to   Use of the laws1of chance, as it might have   `dramatic performance, Mark Boyle decided
       anticipate or to control the effects of action   been called in the 1920's, or random systems   to call his total manifestations 'Events'. This
       painting. In the case of Duchamp the use of   (as it would be called today), is prevalent   presupposes a less deliberate way in which
       chance has something to do with an intel-  in a number of contemporary creative   the unpredictable element is used, despite
       lectual attitude and in the case of the   pursuits, especially in Germany. The    anloreparation, rehearsal or expectations.
       tachist it has something to do with the most   photographer who made a photographic   Of these I have seen only five. Perhaps one
       direct and intuitive type of expression    record in the form of a book about the    that illustrates most accurately Boyle's

       Contributors to this issue

       Jasia Reichardt, who contributes a monthly Comment   Chimen Abramsky, who was born in Russia and   Edward Lucie-Smith, poet and critic, contributes a
       to  Studio International,  is assistant director of the   educated at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, lectures   regular commentary to Studio International.
       Institute of Contemporary Arts.          in Jewish history at University College, London. He
                                                has published books on the British labour movement   Kenneth Frampton is an architect in private practice
       Gene Baro, a frequent contributor to  Studio Inter-  and articles on Jewish art.   in London. As technical editor of-  Architectural
       national,  also contributes to  Art International, The                            Design from 1962 to 1964 he wrote a number of critical
       London Magazine,  and other periodicals, and is   John Anthony Thwaites has been working in Germany   articles on art and architecture. He has taught archi-
       London Correspondent of  Arts Magazine  and  Art in   as an art critic for sixteen years. His monograph on   tectural design at both the A.A. School of Architec-
       America.                                 the sculptor Norbert Kricke was published last year,   ture and at the Royal College of Art. In 1965 he was
                                                and he has just completed a book on the painting of   visiting lecturer and Hodder Fellow at the School of
                                                Rupprecht Geiger.                        Architecture, Princeton University.
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