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Chance Encounters in the Library

The following is the first in a series From the Rosemary Furtak Collection, which will take a closer look at artists’ books from the collection as they relate to current exhibitions and happenings at the Walker Art Center. Commonly known as An Anthology of Chance Operations . . . the full title of this book sprawls across […]

The following is the first in a series From the Rosemary Furtak Collection, which will take a closer look at artists’ books from the collection as they relate to current exhibitions and happenings at the Walker Art Center.

An Anthology of Chance Operations . . . edited by La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low, Second Edition 1970. Courtesy Rosemary Furtak Collection, Walker Art Center Library

An Anthology of Chance Operations . . . edited by La Monte Young and Jackson Mac Low, Second Edition 1970. Courtesy Rosemary Furtak Collection, Walker Art Center Library

Commonly known as An Anthology of Chance Operations . . . the full title of this book sprawls across its first five pages: An anthology of chance operations concept art anti-art indeterminacy improvisation meaningless work natural disasters plans of action stories diagrams music poetry essays dance constructions mathematics compositions. It was first published in 1963, edited by La Monte Young and Mac Low and designed by George Maciunas. As the first collaborative publication from these artists, it played an integral role in the formation of Fluxus. The colorful pages present chance operations from a multitude of artists, including Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono, and George Brecht, among many others. A true artists’ book, Maciunas worked closely with the artists to present their contributions in forms that reflected the artists’ ideas.

Detail from An Anthology of Chance Operations . . .

Detail from An Anthology of Chance Operations . . .

For example, this contribution by Dieter Roth presents his tool for creating chance poems. Placed over a page of text, this loose piece of paper with punched out holes – a “poetry machine” – reveals a new chance poem. While the poem captured below might read like nonsense, imagine a dozen of these poems assembled together. Or a hundred. It starts to take on a new substance.

Detail from An Anthology of Chance Operations . . .

Detail from An Anthology of Chance Operations . . .

As identified by Fluxus artist and theorist Ken Friedman, chance is a key Fluxus idea. As a technique, it enables artists to break from routine. Friedman explains that as something created by chance is put into a new form, it is no longer random but evolutionary[1]. This spirit of creating change and new activity is central to Fluxus.

A few weeks ago, the Art Lab at the Walker Art Center hosted the first of a series of free Fluxus Club events designed by artist Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Fluxus Club invites visitors to participate in an ongoing Happening installation of scores, announcements, rules, poetry and more. Visitors are encouraged to explore the galleries of Art Expanded, 1958-1978 for inspiration. They are also invited to view books and resources in the library, which will be open to the public during Fluxus Club sessions.

For the first installment of Fluxus Club, we selected several Fluxus materials and resources for visitors to page through for inspiration. In addition to Fluxus selections, visitors are welcome to browse the stacks for other material of interest. In a library, serendipity can play an important role in bringing people and books together. Sometimes the best discoveries happen by chance.

Fluxus Club participants in the library. Photo by Erin Smith for Walker Art Center.

Fluxus Club participants in the library. Photo by Erin Smith for Walker Art Center.

Footnote

[1] Ken Friedman, “Fluxus and Company” in The Fluxus Reader, ed. Ken Friedman. (West Sussex: Academy Editions, 1998), 248-9.

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