Welcome to the online celebration of the 125th anniversary of Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard (1897).
This is the poem that launched countless works of free verse and experiments with typography and the page. Visually and physically, its arrangement of scattered words in different type sizes and styles across the pages echoes the drama, images and delaying syntax that the text plays out — a sinking ship, its struggling master, cresting waves, a Siren, a whirlpool or abyss, the North Star and its nearby constellation Ursa Minor. Its challenge to the reader heralded 125 years of artistic and intellectual engagements: a crisis in language and representation, the struggle to reconcile pattern and meaning with chance and nothingness, and the never-ending tarantella of the material with the conceptual. Mallarmé’s is the poem that made the world modern and then post-modern.
The poem also launched a host of livres d’artiste in numerous languages as well as homage in the form of film, painting, photography, sculpture, installation, theater, costume, music, dance, programming, and book art. Even exhibitions of book art. The exhibition best known from the 20th century is Marcel Broodthaers’ 1969 show. Academic exhibitions for the 1998 centenary of Mallarmé’s death included artworks. The fact, however, that no less than five art exhibitions in homage to Un Coup de Dés appeared in the first decade of the 21st century demonstrates a rapidly growing recognition of its importance as a muse to book artists.
Top: Invitation to Marcel Broodthaers’ Exposition Littéraire autour de Mallarmé at the Wide White Space Gallery, Antwerp, December 1969; image courtesy of MACBA. Bottom: Invitation to Michalis Pichler’s Exposition littéraire autour de Mallarmé, Kunstverein Milano and Il Lazzaretto, 14 December 2016 – 28 January 2017.; with permission of Michalis Pichler. Pichler’s first solo exhibition in Italy was a double homage to Mallarmé’s poem and Marcel Broodthaer’s 1969 exhibition and work of homage to the same.
Left to right: Visual Poetics: Art and the Word, Miami Art Museum, April 25-November 16, 2003 (2003), curated by Cheryl Hartup. A Throw of the Dice: Artists Inspired by a Visual Text: An Exhibit in the UC Irvine Langson Library’s Muriel Ansley Reynolds Exhibit Gallery, November 2003 – April 2004 (2003), curated by Renée Riese Hubert and Judd Hubert, brought together rare editions of the poem alongside artworks inspired by it; cover art by Jenna Dufour, Design Services and the UCI Libraries; with permission of UCI Libraries. Mallarmé’s Coup d’État: Un coup de dés: Clark Humanities Museum, Ella Strong Denison Library, January 16 – March 9, 2007 (2007) occasioned a catalogue that is almost a work of book art in itself and rare; displayed with permission of Kitty Maryatt. D’un coup de dés … l’espace du poème depuis Mallarmé (2007), curated by Patrick Cintas and commissioned by Ann-Sarah Delaroche for La Bibliothèque d’Étude et du Patrimoine de Toulouse. Un Coup de Dés/Writing Turned Image/An Alphabet of Pensive Language, Generali Foundation, Vienna, 19 September – 23 November 2008 (2008); curated by Sabine Folie. The catalogue shows on its cover Ian Wallace’s In the Studio (Le Livre) (1993) and contains his profound and clear expression of the poem’s importance not only for his work but that of post-modern and post-conceptual art; with permission of Ian Wallace.
Together, these exhibitions captured somewhat less than half the relevant works that would have qualified. Following the Pichler exhibition in 2017, the number of such works has only grown. On the 125th anniversary of the first publication of Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’abolira le Hasard, it is time to take stock again.
The Poem that “Made Us Modern”
The poem arrived May 1897 in Volume VI, No. 17 of Cosmopolis, Revue internationale, published in London. The anticipated shock of the poem’s layout for its readers prompted the editors to request a preface from Mallarmé explaining how to read the poem. Occasionally a worn copy of the issue comes up for sale by a rare book dealer or auction house, but Gallica (France’s National Library online catalogue) offers access where we can see the single-page and double-page spreads that caused such concern.
Cover and pages 424-25, Cosmopolis, May 1987, Vol. VI, No. 17. Source: Gallica.bnf.fr.
The Cosmopolis editorial team may have overestimated its readers’ immediate shock (there was little response), but imagine the team’s shock if Mallarmé had insisted that Cosmopolis somehow print the poem as he really wished: across eleven double-page spreads rather than the nine single pages into which it was compressed. Again, Gallica provides the means to see what most of us will never see firsthand: Mallarmé’s mark-up of the later proofs showing his intended double-page spreads. These proofs were for the deluxe edition Mallarmé wanted to publish with the entrepreneur Ambroise Vollard. From their correspondence, we know that prints by Odilon Redon were to be included. We know also that Mallarmé’s instructions on size, weight and placement of words, down to the letter, were meticulous.
Mallarmé’s mark-up. Source: Bibliothèque national de France.
One of the images created by Odilon Redon for the planned deluxe edition. Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The printers proclaimed the whole thing madness. Vollard did not press. And Mallarmé died in 1898. Finally in 1914, with the involvement of Edmond Bonniot, Mallarmé’s son-in-law, Éditions de la Nouvelle revue française (NRF) delivered on Mallarmé’s typographic intentions — almost — the typeface was Elzevir not Didot. Gallimard/NRF has reissued it several times in various trim sizes over the years. Subsequent archival discoveries and close observations led to other facsimiles, many of which are recorded in Thierry Roger’s monumental L’Archive du Coup de dés (2010). The scope of this essay/exhibition does not include every one of the many editions of the poem (or its translations) — only those that attempt an artistic homage as well. They appear chronologically among the artworks in the exhibition.
Neither is the essay/exhibition an attempt to explicate this enigmatic poem. What happens in Un Coup de Dés, what it means, how it made us modern and then post-modern — all that and more — have been the subject of countless books, essays and web pages. Those on which this essay/exhibition has relied for such insights can be found under the heading “Further Reading (and Viewing)” at the end of the exhibition. The aims here are rather to present the reader/viewer with an exhibition as comprehensive as possible of the works of artistic homage to this singular poem that have appeared since 1897. For additional exhibitions marking the occasion, see the heading “Other Exhibitions in 2022”, also at the end of this exhibition.
Covers of the 1914 edition (held by the Bodleian) and 1993 edition (from the Books On Books Collection). Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira “l’Appropriation”
While the experience cannot be the same, the reach of a virtual exhibition can exceed that of a bricks-and-mortar affair in certain ways. Moreover, it can provide building blocks for future organizers, curators and enthusiasts of book art and this unusual poem. By virtue of its virtuality, this exhibition is updateable. Its bibliographical references are linked wherever possible to permalinks, enabling the viewer to locate the nearest physical copy of the work. Where Pichler’s exhibition included a working player piano and piano roll version of Un Coup de Dés and films/videos (albeit not related to Mallarmé’s poem), this virtual exhibition provides visuals and hyperlinks to films/videos directly related to the poem as well as the same for operatic, balletic and musical renditions of Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard. The works of homage included come from an exploration of exhibition catalogues, BnF Gallica, the Library of Congress, the Bodleian libraries, WorldCat and Google search — and tips from the scholars and artists themselves.
The word “homage” extends a wide umbrella — over parody, pastiche, livre d’artiste and appropriations in all manner of art forms. One or two works in the exhibition stretch the point of paying homage. Picasso’s pun un coup de thé is one example. Its admission rests on its being the earliest hint of the poem’s presence in other artworks. Subsequent omissions may be intentional or unintentional. In its seeming allusiveness to the poem, Cy Twombly’s Poems to the Sea (1959) petitions for admission. Lacking more obvious appropriation, though, it is more an “homage” to Twombly’s experience of the Mediterranean than of Mallarmé’s poem. Other petitioners, considered or missed, await future curators.
From 1897 to 1959 (5)
Just five works of homage in the first sixty years after the poem’s appearance is not a promising start, but it provides context in which to appreciate the later acceleration.
Christopher Brennan, Prose-Verse-Poster-Algebraic-Symbolico-Riddle Musicopoematographoscope and Pocket Musicopoematographoscope (1897/1981)
The earliest homage to Un Coup de Dés came only a few months after its publication. It took the form of Australian Christopher Brennan’s handwritten pastiche scolding the critics of his own poems influenced by Mallarmé. The work has only appeared in facsimile and then not until 1981. Its lengthy title is better appreciated in its handwritten form. More on this work here.
Facsimile edition of the handwritten manuscript. Published by Hale & Iremonger. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Pablo Picasso, Bouteille, verre et journal sur une table (1912)
In 1973, the art historian and critic Robert Rosenblum remarked on Picasso’s likely homage in the truncated newspaper headline — from “UN COUP DE THÉÂTRE” to “UN COUP DE THÉ” — for use in his 1912 collage. The connection seems a stretch, but Picasso was aware of Mallarmé and the poem, as were the circles in which Picasso moved. One of the avant-gardists — Man Ray — would be far less subtle in his cinematic homage to the poem.
© Succession Picasso. Photo: © Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM, Centre Pompidou.
Man Ray, Les Mystères du Château de Dés (1929)
Man Ray’s set location was Villa Noailles, a villa built for Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles by the architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. Not surprisingly for patrons of Brancusi, Mallet-Stevens and Picasso among many others, the Noailles were footing the bill for Man Ray’s cinematic effort. The film opens with a screen quotation from the poem, but, other than the dice-shaped aspect of the villa which sparked the connection, the film develops its own mysterious suggestions apart from Mallarmé’s.
Film, one reel, 16 mm, 19:46 minutes. Posted 26 April 2014. Accessed 1 April 2018.
Art et Action Laboratoire de Théâtre (Édouard Autant, Louise Lara and Claude Autant-Lara), Un Coup de Dé [sic] Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard (1919/1942)
The Art et Action Laboratoire de Théâtre planned a spectacle including a polyphonic vocal performance of the poem as early as 1919. Thwarted by copyright law, Art et Action joined with the Société des Gens de Lettres for a new orchestration in 1942. Claude Autant-Lara’s 1923 poster for the abortive presentation (along with three other similar spectacles) and his decor (not shown here) foreshadow performance works by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, Kathy Bruce and Alistair Noble, Bernadette O’Toole and many others — all noted below.
Hella Guth, Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard : poème/par Stéphane Mallarmé (1952)
The efforts from 1897 to 1929 did little to prompt others to explore Un Coup de Dés for material and inspiration in the next three decades. Perhaps the first livre d’artiste version of the poem (and the fifth and last homage from 1897 to 1959) was created by Hella Guth in 1952. Guth’s distinctive style of collage foreshadows future extensions into more three-dimensional and material techniques.
Front and back covers of Hella Guth’s livre d’artiste. Courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France. Displayed with permission of Kate Rys, niece of Hella Guth.
From 1960 to 1969 (5)
The next six decades of the poem’s aftermath give a geometric progression of works in a variety of media by which homage was paid. The 1960s begin with two “over-the-top” works, over the top in very different ways.
Ernest Fraenkel, Les Dessins Trans-conscients de Stéphane Mallarmé, à propos de la Typographie de Un Coup de Dés (1960)
Ernest Fraenkel was convinced that, working back from the text of Un Coup de Dés, he had “discovered” additional artwork in Mallarmé’s mind. The forms of the artwork could be shown by connecting the dots (the beginnings of the lines with each other, and likewise the ends) and shading the enclosed shapes — like a Rorshach test, only inverted (words first, then the images). Strange as the theorizing may be, stranger still is the visual results’ prediction of similar impressions almost ten years later arising from completely different premisses. More on Fraenkel’s work here.
Photo: Books On Books Collection.
Seven different diagrammatic renderings. The one at the lower right shows Fraenkel’s sideways view. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
André Masson, Poème: Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard by Stéphane Mallarmé (1961)
The second homage to appear in this decade is André Masson’s near illumination of the poem. It subsequently warranted an extended essay from the 2003 exhibition’s curators: Renée Riese Hubert and Judd D. Hubert. These three extracts from their essay provide useful touchstones to place against later works in this virtual exhibition:
Far from continuing or elaborating on Mallarmé’s project, Masson has contrived a systematic substitution of graphics, including calligraphy, for a typographical chef-d’oeuvre, thus enabling an unforeseen and uninvited art form to usurp the territory of another. (p. 508)
… in illustrating poetry he more often than not deserves his usual designation of abstract surrealist, all the more so because he combines automatism with the mythological dynamism so characteristic of his paintings and his drawings. (p. 513)
… Mallarmé’s poem, characterized by its avoidance of anecdotal narrative, its deliberate twistings of metaphorical patterns, its deconstruction of rhythmic continuity, practically precludes figuration. How can any illustration, however abstract, lend visual support to a text that compounds to such an extent the problematics of representation? … How could Masson graphically master a text that perversely withdraws from the reader and pores over itself, like the hypothetically sentient waves it repeatedly evokes, questions, and denies? (p. 514)
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2021. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
By the end of the 1960s, a very different form of homage takes over from that of Guth and Masson, one prefigured by Fraenkel’s abstract mapping of Mallarmé’s text into strips of black, one that would recur in several guises into the next century. Call it homage by redaction.
Mario Diacono, a METRICA n’aboolira (1968)
Detectable from its title, Diacono’s work intends a more social or political comment than Fraenkel’s. In an interview, he noted, “The title alternates not only colors, black and orange, but also uppercase and lowercase letters. The wordplay in essence says: the absence of metrics, of language, will not abolish poetry. Neither will the American taboos” (Nickas, 2019). Those comments align with the element of “pop” art and the underground comic in this homage. But does Diacono’s socio-political drive outweigh the rest of a METRICA n’aboolira‘s insistence on “looking at” Un Coup de Dés rather than reading it? Or is the work reminding us to read what we are looking at? More on this work here. The entire work has been digitized here.
Courtesy of Mario Diacono.
Marcel Broodthaers, Image: Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’abolira le Hasard (1969)
Marcel Broodthaers’ homage appeared as a three-part centerpiece to the 1969 exhibition entitled Exposition littéraire autour de Mallarmé: Marcel Broodthaers à la Deblioudebliou/S (“Literary exhibition around Mallarmé at the Deblioudebliou/S”). Deblioudebliou/S puns on a distorted French pronunciation of the letter W and the three initials of the Antwerp gallery Wide White Space, where the event occurred. The three parts consist of ten copies numbered I-X on anodized aluminum, ninety copies numbered 1-90 on transparent mechanographic paper (the original edition) and three hundred copies numbered 1-300 on opaque paper (the catalogue edition). On Broodthaers’ cover, the word Image occupies the same space as Poème on the 1914 edition’s cover. Following that, Broodthaers displaces Mallarmé’s dismissive “Préface” from Cosmopolis with his own preface: the poem’s entire text set in a block of type with the lines separated by slashes. Until the colophon, that is the only legible text to appear in this homage by redaction in which all the lines of the poem are blacked out. As visitors to the show perused the editions, a tape recording of Broodthaers’ reading the poem played in the background. Broodthaers’ multimedia homage would provoke dozens of artists to create works of double-, triple- even quintuple-homage over the next sixty years.
Photos: Top image courtesy of Charles Bernstein; middle and bottom images courtesy of MACBA.
Broodthaers’ bookworks above are not the only forms of homage he created for Un Coup de Dés. The Galerie Michael Werner hosted an exhibition entitled “Footprints of a collector: Reiner Speck. Mallarmé, Broodthaers et les autres” (2 May – 23 July 2022). In addition to outstanding copies of the Image works, the curator Sabine Schiffer included Garniture Symbolique (1975), a blue-tinted glossy photo strip with nine photos on glossy paper, showing excerpts and phrases from the poem. Also, a painting entitled Un coup de dés jamais quand bien même… (oil, gold paint, felt pen on canvas) from 1969.
Brian Doherty, ed., Aspen Magazine in a Box [for Stéphane Mallarmé] [aka : The Minimalism Issue] (No. 5 + 6, Fall/Winter 1967)
The last 1960s works of homage to mention are Daniel Spoerri’s Un Coup de Dés dinner-cum-artwork, originally held in 1968 and reperformed on numerous occasions, and the Aspen Magazine in a Box [aka : The Minimalism Issue] (No. 5 + 6, Fall/Winter 1967), dedicated to Mallarmé.
Spoerri’s homage is first and foremost performative art with invited dinner guests assigned their seats by a throw of the dice. Afterwards, the meal’s detritus is fixed to a surface for vertical display, like debris on the deck of a shipwreck. No image of one of the Un Coup de Dés after-dinner works has been found for this exhibition. It may be that one or more of these performances also alluded to the literary dinners at which Mallarmé declaimed. Mark Clintberg has recounted one of these Spoerri banquets (held at Haus Maria Theresia in Dusseldorf, Germany, on 5 February 2010), and its social satiric flavor seems distant from those celebrations of the late 19th century. Though not on display here, Spoerri’s performances in homage are worth noting as heralds of the veritable variety show of performances that will appear over the coming decades.
Although The Minimalism Issue is more an homage to Mallarmé in general than one to Un Coup de Dés in particular, it too is a herald. It makes for a mixed bag (or box) and is noteworthy as much for its difficult-to-access LPs and super 8 films as for its name contributors: Roland Barthes, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Dan Graham, Susan Sontag among others. With its mixed media, Aspen’s Mallarmé Box foreshadows even more eclectic and technically challenging efforts to come.
Permission of Whitechapel Gallery being sought.
From 1970 to 1979 (4)
If simply nodding toward Mallarmé’s poetic influence constituted homage, a small town of concrete poems could be put forward to pad the number of artworks of homage to Un Coup de Dés in the 1970s. As for artworks, perhaps artists were momentarily stunned by Broodthaers’ homage, for only four very different new works of homage appeared in the 1970s.
Dan Graham, Present Continuous Past(s) (1974)
One of the participants in The Minimalism Issue of the Aspen Magazine, Dan Graham moved from his conceptual Poem Schema (1966), which appeared in the box, to an installation as homage. Graham’s primary interest had been Mallarmé’s long-touted Le Livre, which was to be not merely a book but a performance. So his attraction to Brian Doherty’s book as box of mixed media makes sense. Un Coup de Dés, however, may have had just as much influence as Le Livre. Consider these comments by Penny Florence as she writes about how Mallarmé’s poem and Odilon Redon’s prints must be read together:
They are a book with interchangeable pages, with varying directions and registers, with vertical and horizontal movements, with reversals and with shapes that are as important in signification as words. They challenge our notion of coherence and demand that we re-shape the relations between recorded and immediate experience. (p.110) [My emphasis]
That is also what happens in Dan Graham’s installation Present Continuous Past (1974). The installation room consists of two mirrored walls at a right angle to each other. A third wall on which a video camera is mounted above a video screen stands at a right angle to one mirrored wall and opposite the other. The fourth wall at a right angle to camera/screen wall of the room is blank white and provides the entrance to the installation. The video records the viewer and, after an eight-seconds lag, projects the recording onto the video screen. Because the recorder will then pick up the mirror reflection of the eight-seconds-lagged projection playing on the video screen and will then play that back after another eight-seconds lag, the viewer will experience in the present a continuous regress of the past(s).
© Dan Graham, in the installation. Video posted by Alex Bonilha (CCBY). 10 February 2013. Accessed 14 February 2022.
Jean Lecoultre, STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ, UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD: POÈME (1975)
Jean Lecoultre’s livre d’artiste of “soft varnish” etching resonates with Mallarmé’s dictum peindre non la chose mais l’effet qu’elle produit (“to depict not the object but the effect the object produces”). Lecoultre depicts easily identifiable objects — a stone, a measuring rod, a rope and more — and less easily identifiable ones — a blurred wall and windows, a metallic plate with two rows of six numbered holes (the one numbered “1” filled with red), a pair of draped rectangular columns being sliced with a cheese-cutter-like cable and so on. The soft-focus realistic detail of surreal images, the strange juxtaposition of objects and the way some objects seem to float on the page — these mirror Mallarmé’s arrangement of words and lines among les blancs of the pages, the precision of his images and the suggestiveness of his metaphors.
Photos: Books On Books Collection, displayed with permission of Jean Lecoultre.
Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, Every Revolution Is a Throw of the Dice (1977)
Mallarmé was always drawn to the idea of theatrical performances of his works, including Un Coup de Dés. He may have had a revolutionary grasp of staging text on blank pages, but he lacked any grasp of mise-en-scène for the actual stage. Despite his finger on the pulse of domestic fashion in his one-man magazine La Dernière Mode (1874), Mallarmé had no feel for the audience attracted to his contemporary Sarah Bernhardt.
He might have rejoiced that Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub filmed this Greek-style theatrical reading of Un Coup de Dés even if it came some sixty years after the attempt by Art et Action (see above). By staging the nine-voice reading in the Père Lachaise cemetery on the hill where the last Communards had been shot and buried, and also nearby the memorials to the Holocaust’s concentration camps, Straub and Huillet appropriated the poem for a forced chime with their film’s title, a quotation attributed to Jules Michelet, the 19th century historian of the French Revolution. War poetry and social indignation figure little in Mallarmé’s work even though the end of the Franco-Prussian war as well as the bloody suppression of the Paris Commune in May 1871 hung like a pall over France in his lifetime. But in light of another line from Michelet — “With the world began a war that will only end with the world, and not before: that of man against nature, mind against matter, freedom against fate. History is nothing but the story of this endless struggle.” Introduction à l’histoire universelle (1843) — perhaps the chime is not so forced. A video of the reading was made available on DVD in 2010.
© BELVA Film. Image and permission to display, courtesy of Jean-Marie Straub et Danièlle Huillet: des films et leurs sites.
Ian Wallace, Image/Text (1979)
As will be seen later in the exhibition, Ian Wallace is a “repeat hommageur”. Over three decades, he has created three separate works. With each one, something subtly new appears, but all are grounded in a particular kind of self-referencing shared with Mallarmé’s poem: the creative struggle reflected in the creation. In his own words:
In 1979, I made a large photographic work … which combined images of me in the studio making the work itself, with a text meditating on this concept of self-referencing. … This work was an early attempt to reconfigure a conceptual art practice through its literary antecedent in the work of Stéphane Mallarmé, …. After reading [Un Coup de Dés] for many years, I have come to appreciate it as one of the foundational works of modern art. Its theme, that of artistic destiny and a crisis of representation, was expressed through the collapse of metaphysics into typographics and the material space of the page. [Ian Wallace in Un Coup de Dés/Writing Turned Image, curated by Sabine Folie, p. 82.]
Hand-coloured silver gelatine print, 276 x 549 cm. Image and permission to display, courtesy of Catriona Jeffries Gallery.
From 1980 to 1989 (12)
The 1980s begin with the acclaimed édition mise en oeuvre by Mitsou Ronat and Tibor Papp. In addition to trebling the previous decade’s contribution, the 1980s offer the first sculptural installations to pay homage to Un Coup de Dés — Robert Filliou’s Eins. Un. One. (1984) and Geraldo de Barros’ Jogos de Dados (1986) — as well as the first symphony — Claude Baillif’s Un coup de dés, d’après Mallarmé, Op. 53 (1980).
Mitsou Ronat and Tibor Papp (eds), UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD: POÈME (1980).
In 1980, Mitsou Ronat and Tibor Papp used Mallarmé’s corrected proofs of the abortive Vollard version to produce an edition closer to Mallarmé’s intention than previously published. They followed the intended unbound-folios approach to the poem but juxtaposed it not with the etchings of Odile Redon but with artistic interpretations by Papp and his contemporaries. A decade later, Renée Riese Hubert and Judd D. Hubert would comment: “This surprising accompaniment to a scrupulously authentic printing of the original poem pays so to speak a postmodern homage to a quintessential modern master” (p. 508). Over the decades after the Ronat/Papp production, other new editions appeared — also aimed at reflecting the Master’s wishes. Not including Françoise Morel‘s facsimile of the manuscripts and proofs(2007), there are three other explorations of the “true” edition (in French): Michel Pierson‘s (2002), Ypsilon Éditeur‘s (2007) and Alain Hurtig‘s (2012). Not shown in the exhibition, Pierson’s substitutes artwork by Jorge Camacho for that by Odile Redon. Ypsilon Éditeur’s edition restores Redon and appears later in this exhibition. Also shown later, Hurtig’s edition substitutes Catherine Belœil’s artwork for Redon’s and provides an insightful analysis of typeface options, including the Didot. For more on the Ronat/Papp edition, go here.
Photo of the work: Books On Books Collection.
Double-page spreads from the 1980 Ronat/Papp edition.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Tibor Papp, Déville. Paul Nagy, Untitled. Photos: Books On Books Collection.
Claude Ballif, Un coup de dés, d’après Mallarmé, Op. 53 (1980)
Claude Baillif began this symphony while teaching at McGill University in Montréal. The musical composition for five choirs, two double basses, two percussionists, two kettledrums, and electronic tape directly addresses the poem’s shape. As explained in the LP liner notes, Baillif assigned a particular “sound property” to each of the poem’s eleven double-page spreads (with two double basses, two percussionists and two kettledrum players punctuating the change from one spread to another); designated each of the five choirs to each of the five type fonts and sizes; and generated a “ribbon of sound” in the university’s electronic music studio to create additional echoes across the eleven spreads. The result is “essentially grave, still music”, although with a great deal of dissonance. Baillif may have been “helped by the contemplation of the calm vastness of the St. Lawrence Estuary”, but do not expect Smetana’s Vltava (The Moldau); after all, Un Coup de Dés involves a shipwreck. Baillif’s is not the first musical homage to Mallarmé. Pierre Boulez’s Pli selon pli (“Fold on fold”) in 1957 holds that distinction, but Baillif’s is the first dedicated to Un Coup de Dés and signals several others to come.
© Claude Baillif. Recording by Harmonia Mundi, 1984. Accessed 28 February 2021.
Eugenio Miccini, Un colpo di dadi (1980)
Part of Gruppo 70, the Italian visual poetry movement, Eugenio Miccini would have been remiss not to have included an homage to Un Coup de Dés in his body of work.
© Eugenio Miccini. Mixed media and collage of wood on wooden board. 50 x 70 cm. Permission of estate being sought.
Robert Filliou, Eins. Un. One. (1984)
This work first appeared in 1984 and has been displayed in several 21st-century exhibitions, including Robert Filliou‘s first solo exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds in 2013. The constellation of 16,000 multicolored dice, each with all six sides bearing a single dot, delivers one of the more humorous works of homage to Un Coup de Dés. With the guarantee of a single dot, it might be thought that chance has been abolished, whichever and however many dice are rolled. The multiple sizes and colors of the dice and the varied constellations into which they might fall per installation suggest otherwise. Again, even this thought emits a throw of the dice.
© Estate Robert Filliou. Photos: Ilmari Kalkkinen for Mamco, Genève; Matthew Noah Smith for University of Leeds; Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Estate Robert Filliou & Peter Freeman, Inc., New York / Paris.
Ian Tyson and Neil Crawford, A Cast of Dice Never Can Annul Chance (1985)
As Ronat and Papp were preparing their édition mise-en-oeuvre following Mallarmé’s corrected proofs, Neil Crawford came across a copy of Robert Greer Cohn’s Mallarmé’s Masterwork, New Findings (Mouton & Co, The Hague, 1966) and was struck by its reproduction of the set of proofs sold by Pierre Berès to an American collector – the so-called Lahure proofs. Crawford, too, was determined to prepare a typographic translation of the proofs — but in English. Crawford’s choice of the Bodoni typeface as a substitute for the Didot that Mallarmé wanted can be justified on two grounds: first, the two typefaces are historically contemporaneous and inspired alike by John Baskerville’s experimentation with the contrast between letters’ thick and thin strokes; and second, even if there had been an English translation to set in 1897 or 1914, Bodoni was the more available face for English-language typesetters. Having enlarged Cohn’s reproductions to their originals’ size, Crawford undertook the daunting task of figuring out how to squeeze an English version taking up 10% more space than the French into Mallarmé’s careful layout. It would take seven years of evenings in tracing letters, translating, transcribing, adjusting, retranslating and retranscribing to generate hand-crafted layouts that could be stored away until the day that photocomposition would be sufficiently advanced to accommodate the word and character spacing necessary to follow them. Fittingly by chance encounters, Crawford was introduced in 1982 to Ian Tyson, who was planning his own livre d’artiste version. In an ironic reversal of Mallarmé’s concern that the Redon prints might undermine the typography, Tyson and Crawford were concerned that anything less than letterpress printing would not ensure the density of black on the page that would complement Tyson’s aquatints. This led to phototypesetting output as patch setting, then hand pasting according to Crawford’s layouts, and then creation of process line blocks for the relief printing in letterpress. More on Tyson and Crawford’s homage here.
© Ian Tyson and Neil Crawford. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Neil Crawford.
Michael Lechner, Les Ondes de sable; Un coup de dés / d’ordinateur (1986)
Michael Lechner‘s diptych, a color lithograph of mixed media on paper, has some affinity with Tyson’s homage. Both oscillate between abstraction and iconography. Both allude to the computational but overlay it with sandy gradations of tint. Lechner himself writes: “by the geometrical, I trap the dream and by the dream I make fun of the geometry”.
© Michael Lechner. Image from auction sites. Displayed with permission of Michael Lechner.
Geraldo de Barros, Jogos de Dados (1986)
Geraldo de Barros created his sculptural forms in the 1980s. Jogos de Dados was among the first large-scale sculptural installations paying homage to Un Coups de Dés. Haraldo and Augusto de Campos and their Noigrandes literary magazine had raised the profile of the poem over the preceding decades, and Augusto de Campos, friend to de Barros, dedicated a poem to his squares.
Mounted on wires stretched from ceiling to floor, the 55 geometric sculptural forms of de Barros’s Jogos de Dados (Games of Dice, 1980s) dominate the space, hanging in clusters facing this way and that. Close to the centre, the originating piece, Pai de Todos (Father of Them All), is a hexagon comprising 12 rhombuses, pristine in its mathematical precision, the simplicity of its black, white and grey colours, and its smooth, almost textureless expanses of Formica. — Rigby, Art Review.
© Geraldo de Barros. Press image/Julia Parpulov. Displayed with permission of Fabiana de Barros.
Jacques Vernière, UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD/UN COLPO DI DADI MAI ABOLIRÀ IL CASO (1987)
Alessandro Zanella, founder of Edizioni Ampersand, asked the artist and fellow printer/publisher Vernière to join him in realizing this Italian livre d’artiste. Vernière’s abstract woodcuts capture the poem’s imagery of sea foam, shipwreck and the abyss. More on Zanella and Vernière here.
© Edizioni Ampersand and Jacques Vernière. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Edizioni Ampersand.
Chiavelli, Arthur R. Un coup de DÉS Jamais N’Abolira le HASARD (1988)
More an allusion than homage, Bernard Chiavelli’s hardcover comic book is the second of a trilogy, following its main character through adventures based on the imagined East African life of exile Arthur Rimbaud, one-time visitor to Mallarmé’s Tuesday soirées, fellow poète maudit, gun runner and Paul Verlaine’s lover. More on Chiavelli’s trilogy here.
Photo: Books On Books Collection.
Carol Rudyard, Salt Cellar and Glass (1988).
Carol Rudyard’s homage is dual, linking Mallarmé to Marcel Duchamp, and may be the first video installation to incorporate Un Coup de Dés. In the video, the title of the poem is chanted. Perhaps recalling Picasso’s collage of newspaper text “un coup de thé”, Rudyard juxtaposes the text un coup with the image of a goblet (une coupe), and the words le hasard appear, reproduced from a newspaper and repeatedly photocopied. Before that, the words de dés appear beside the glass, behind which is a cloth patterned in black and white squares suggesting a checkerboard or dice, and likewise the words jamais and n’abolira appear. Rudyard’s allusions are as subtle and elusive as Mallarmé’s own experiment with language in his poem as Lyn Merrington’s essay in Australian Divagations demonstrates.
© Carol Rudyard. Photo: Courtesy of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. Permission to display being sought.
Honorine Tepfer, UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD: POÈME (1989).
Honorine Tepfer embeds her homage in paper as if taking her cue from Mallarmé’s letter to André Gide about the poem:
… le rythme d’une phrase au sujet d’un acte ou même d’un objet n’a de sens que s’il les limite et, figuré sur la papier, repris par les Lettres à l’estampe originelle, en doit rendre, malgré tout quelque chose […]. La littérature fait ainsi sa preuve: pas autre raison d’écrire sur du paper.
“… the rhythm of a sentence about an act or even an object has meaning only if imitates them and, enacted on paper, when the Letters have taken over from the original etching must convey something despite it all […]. Literature thus makes its proof: there is no other reason to write on paper.” — from Selected Letters, in Rancière’s Mallarmé: The Politics of the Siren, pp. 56-57.
Tepfer’s choice of Baskerville highlights the recurring issue of honoring Mallarmé’s wish for the poem to be set in Didot.
© Honorine Tepfer. Photos: Books On Books Collection; permission to display, courtesy of Studio Monte Specchio.
Christiane Vielle, UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD: POÈME (1989)
One of the more daring of livres d’artiste. Christiane Vielle not only deploys her engravings to take Mallarmé’s poem beyond the double-page spreads he envisioned, she also does so by redistributing his text under folds and across them. In offering her re-reading of the work, Vielle offers viewers the chance for their own re-reading in opening, closing and reopening the folds to see how the poem and images enfold one another in different views.
© Christiane Vielle.
Photos: Books On Books. Displayed with permission of Christiane Vielle.
From 1990 to 1999 (21)
The number of works paying homage to Un Coup de Dés in the 1990s continued the decade-on-decade increase since the 1980s. Numerous exhibitions and conferences in honor of the centennial of Mallarmé’s death closed out the decade them were:
Mallarmé, 1842-1898 : Un Destin D’écriture (Mallarmé, 1842-1898: A Destiny of Writing), curated by Yves Peyré at the Musée d’Orsay, where the pages of the poem were displayed on the exhibition room’s walls.
Whispers, Lies & Text, curated by Mary Knights in Hobart, Tasmania.
Les Echos de Mallarmé: du coup de dés à l’informatique. Mallarmé et la typographie (Echoes of Mallarmé’: from the throw of the dice to computer science. Mallarmé and typography), curated by Christine Givry at the Orangerie du Palais Synodal, Sens, France.
“On the ashes of the stars … Stéphane Mallarmé, a celebration“, curated by Michael Graf and Fiona Caro, at the Monash Art Gallery in Melbourne, Australia.
A Painter’s Poet, curated by Jane Mayo Roos at Hunter College, New York, New York.
TEXT no TEXT, curated by Alastair Noble at the Tomkins Gallery, Cedar Crest College, Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Hommage an Stéphane Mallarmés Würfelwurf, curated by Guy Schraenen, at the Institut Français and the Neues Museum Weserburg, in Bremen, Germany.
Poesia totale : 1897-1997, Dal colpo di dadi alla poesia visuale (Total Poetry: 1897-1997, From a throw of the dice to visual poetry), curated by Enrico Mascelloni and Sarenco at the Museo civici di Mantova, Mantua, Italy.
As noted below, several artworks of homage to Un Coup de Dés were included in these events, but many of those available were not captured.
Gary Young and D.J. Waldie, POEM: A throw of the Dice will never abolish Chance (1990)
In keeping with D. J. Waldie’s reading of Danielle Mihram‘s analysis of the proofs of the intended Mallarmé/Vollard livre d’artiste and Waldie’s own examination of the proofs at Harvard, Young’s four woodcuts are presented separately from the text and aim to honor Mallarmé’s desire for images that are “blond and pale” in relation to the white of les blancs and the sharp black of the type. The design by Young and Felicia Rice used several cuttings of Bodoni to approximate the Firmin-Didot of the original proofs. More on the Young, Rice and Waldie volume here.
© Gary Young and D.J. Waldie. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Young and Waldie.
Ellsworth Kelly, UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD (1992)
Any new livre d’artiste in homage to Un Coup de Dés naturally faces questions of quantity, placement and color of the artwork. Mallarmé’s primary concern was that they not detract from the visual imagery of the text in its careful typography and layout. In all three considerations, Ellsworth Kelly and Limited Edition Press may be honoring Ambroise Vollard’s entrepreneurial hopes more. Despite (or because of) Kelly’s minimalist associations, more is more in this leatherbound volume that runs to 97 unpaginated pages, including 11 lithographs. A double-spread of blank pages follows each recto page of text and each page of lithographs, each of which appears on a recto page. The number of prints is a balancing response to the 11 double-spread pages of the poem, but those intervening blank pages nod toward Mallarmé’s les blancs.
© Ellsworth Kelly and Limited Editions Club. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Limited Editions.
Reinhold Nasshan, Würfelwurf: fragmentarische Annäherung an Stéphan Mallarmé (1992) and Un Coup: Stéphane Mallarmé (1997)
Mallarmé’s poem is one of many literary obsessions for Reinhold Nasshan and has yielded two works of homage: Würfelwurf and Un Coup. Both of these sculptural works are semantically subtle. The first deliberately omits the article eins (“a”). “Throw of the dice”, “dice throw” or “throwing dice” are all reasonable translations of Würfelwurf, but not “a throw of the dice”, which most German translators render as ein Würfelwurf when tackling Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés. But then Reinhold Nasshan is not translating the poem. As the subtitle indicates, he is making “a fragmentary approach”, an approximation. By truncating the poem’s title, Un Coup also projects its fragmentary approach. In its three-dimensional shape-shifting, it presents the “moment of movement itself, the transition between the throw and the impact of the dice, emerge graphically” (moment der bewegung selbst den ubergang zwischen dem werfen und dem auftreffen der wurfel, graphisch hervortreten zu lassen). More on Nasshan’s work here.
© Reinhold Nasshan. Würfelwurf: fragmentarische Annäherung an Stéphan Mallarmé. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Reinhold Nasshan.
© Reinhold Nasshan. Un Coup: Stéphane Mallarmé. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Reinhold Nasshan.
Ian Wallace, In the Studio (Le Livre) (1993)
This is the second of Ian Wallace’s works inspired by Un Coup de Dés, and as he notes, it had a transformative effect:
… I did make a more assertive reference to Mallarmé’s book by photographing it at a specific page (as well as Jacques Scherer’s publication of Mallarmé’s Le Livre — his incomplete and unpublished ‘great work’ …) conspicuously inserted amongst a random collection of materials on my worktable…. I recognized that the blank pages of this poem were … an early literary equivalent to the endgame aesthetics of late modernist aesthetics of monochrome painting that I had practiced earlier in the 1960s…. and … shifted my work away from abstract monochrome painting to montage photography influenced by the linguistic aspect of conceptual art that I called the “literature of images.” — Ian Wallace in Un Coup de Dés/Writing Turned Image, curated by Sabine Folie, p.86.
© Ian Wallace. Photos of the catalogue: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Catriona Jeffries Gallery.
Barry Guy, Un Coup De Dés (1994)
Perhaps uniquely, Barry Guy’s musical homage to what he calls “a typographical symphony of words” has architectural origins. In the liner notes for its performance by the Hilliard Ensemble, Guy writes:
The choice of Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés as the basis of the piece came about through studies of the conceptual buildings by the architects Richard Rogers and Peter Eisenmann respectively. Rogers’ project was for the Tomigaya exhibition space in Tokyo where modules and floors would operate like an adjustable shelving system, flexing with the needs of the inhabitants. Eisenmann’s project was the Max-Reinhardt-Haus, Berlin, which manipulates the infinite three-dimensional Moebius strip to arrive at a series of topological surfaces which form the prismatic character of the building. The conceptual link was provided by Mallarmé’s poem which transformed the idea of the ‘module’ and the Möbius strip into a dice twisting in the air.
… One of the surprising elements is Mallarmé’s very radical use of upper and lower case lettering. I set about to distil the upper case words in sequence into a new quasi-abstract text that lent itself to vocalisation. Additionally Mallarmé’s ‘landscape’ layout suggested a graphic representation of the music and its movement. The score is accordingly on one large page and portrays the rolling of the dice associated with the desired pitches, execution and text. — Barry Guy.
Here is the score that Guy describes.
© Barry Guy. Image and permission to display, courtesy of Barry Guy.
Joëlle Tuerlinckx, 3 Dés ‘j.t.’ (1994), 3 Dés ‘j.t.’ (2008) and 3 Dés ‘j.t.’ (2013)
Over all other hommageurs of Un Coup de Dés, Joëlle Tuerlinckx has the advantage that her name originates in the Old Flemish word teerling(en)/die(dice). Perhaps in some subtle way, this has made her susceptible to the poem’s influence. In correspondence, she writes:
I like to quote ‘rien n’aura (eu) lieu que le lieu ‘. I share this perception / conception of the world and of the space-time that it induces. almost like a philosophy of life, a way of living and exhibiting. — Joëlle Tuerlinckx, 18 February 2021, correspondence with Books On Books.
Tuerlinck’s first throw of the dice in 1994 was occasioned by being asked to place a work in the exhibition’s entrance display case. With no concrete sense of the display’s place or placement of the other objects in the exhibition, she left matters to chance:
On the road when I reached Witte de With, I picked up a green cube that morning, put it in my pocket. I still had a (hard-boiled?) breakfast egg in my pocket that I hadn’t had time to eat. And on a piece of paper, in front of the window, I scribbled a point, and immediately emptied my pocket. Everything happened, as it was obvious, on demand. I marked each object with a few points at random .. by the shape of the egg and its improbability as an object to be thrown or to have a face, and with the two-dimensionality of the piece of paper each stroke was in advance both won and lost. 18 February 2021, correspondence with Books On Books.
From 1994 exhibition Pas d’Histoire Pas d’Histoire, curated by Chris Dercon for Witte de Wit in Rotterdam. © Joëlle Tuerlinckx. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Joëlle Tuerlinckx.
For her second throw of the dice (2008), Tuerlinckx placed (threw?) three black undifferentiated cubes on what appears to be a geographical map but is a happenstance stain created by a puddle of evaporating tea. With no markings on the dice, there is no winning or losing, and nothing has taken place but the place marked by the dice on a chance-made map.
From the artist’s record of the 2008 exhibition at Galerie Nadia Vilenne in Liège. © Joëlle Tuerlinckx. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Joëlle Tuerlinckx.
The third throw was intended to remake the first and to respond to Sabine Folie’s Vienna exhibition in 2008: Un Coup de Dés/Writing Turned Image/An Alphabet of Pensive Language. This time, though, the egg remained unmarked and left as a third point in and of itself.
From 2013 exhibition © Joëlle Tuerlinckx. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Joëlle Tuerlinckx.
Klaus Detjen, Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard – Ein Würfelwurf niemals tilgt den Zufall (1995)
Scholar of typography and design, Klaus Detjen presents the poem three times in this volume: first, in French overlaid with an interpretive design, then in French and finally in German. All three instances follow the typography and layout of the first book edition of the poem as published in 1914 by Gallimard. The colored linear frames, threads and markings are allocated to the typographical motifs Mallarmé uses. Using Chinese-fold folios, Detjen carries his color diagrams across the fore-edge to highlight the reading order as he understands the syntax relayed by the typographical motifs. He also takes Mallarmé at his word about les blancs and seizes on the whiteness of the surrounding space and runs to the prismatic metaphor that the spectrum of colors is simply the decomposition of white light. More on Detjen’s homage here.
© Klaus Detjen. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Klaus Detjen.
Ofer Lellouche (and Uzy Agassi, ed.) UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD (1997)
Ofer Lellouche‘s homage consists of marine plywood covered in black leather, dice embedded in the spine and stand, 9 etchings, trim size of H76 x W56 cm, and Arches 250gsm printed in 22 pt Times New Roman. The pages of text replicate those of the then-current Pléiade edition of Mallarmé’s Complete Works. Of course, the size of the work is scaled up. The replication results in the placement of “JAMAIS” and certain other phrases and a typeface not as Mallarmé designated in the proofs for the deluxe edition. It also means that page numbers appear, and it accounts for the use of Times New Roman. There is an underlying reason for the scaling up and replication. Lellouche not only wanted the scale for the display of his double-page spread prints (below) but also for the allusion to Picasso’s rumored habit of using his copy of Mallarmé’s poems as a sketchbook. Ever since his “brick wall” encounter with Un Coup de Dés and its white-on-black, black-on-white aesthetic, Lellouche has felt its influence on his art — including self-portraiture, the figurative and landscapes.
The chosen trim size foreshadows Alastair Noble’s monolithic homage Mallarmé 2000 (H96.5 x W66 cm), and the ghostly etchings foreshadow the effects achieved by Raffaella della Olga’s phosphorescent ink in Un Coup De Dés Jamais N’abolira Le Hasard – Constellation (2009). But this homage is the only one that brings the poem together with all three artistic traditions of self-portraiture, the figurative and landscapes.
© Ofer Lellouche and Even Hoshen. Photos: Courtesy of Ido Agassi; Books On Books Collection. Permission to display from Agassi and the artist.
Alastair Noble, As if / As if (1997)
Alastair Noble‘s installation work focuses on the “Comme si / Comme si” double-page spread in Un Coup de Dés. Transparent overlapping sail-like shapes angle across the words printed at an angle within two frames hung on a wall at angles to one another. Hanging at angles from the ceiling by steel cables and holding screen mesh are three frames shaped to echo the diptych’s sail-like shapes. Seen longitudinally the three hanging frames form what could be the listing hull of a ship or the pages of a book opening or closing. Across and within two and three dimensions, Noble’s multiple mastery of space honors and rivals Mallarmé’s mastery of the double-page spread. The installation first appeared at the View Gallery in New York. The diptych was later displayed in the exhibition “The Next Word” (1998) curated by Johanna Drucker at the Neuberger Museum in New York.
© Alastair Noble. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Alastair Noble.
Kathy Bruce, Valise for Mallarmé (1997), Solitary Plume Lost (1998?), Comocíon, Contucíon, y Compresíon Cerebrales (1998)
Valise for Mallarmé is one of several aesthetic expressions of Kathy Bruce‘s experience of the poem that “made us modern”. With this homage, she takes Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte en Valise and Joseph Cornell’s boxes in an original direction and replaces their mysterious surreality with the mysteries of Un Coup de Dés and the surreality arising from chance-found objects and their juxtaposition. The Duchampian valise opens to show that it has been pressed into a Mallarméan voyage. In the deeper compartment sits a Cornellian glass-covered wooden box. It contains a red die; collage of an engraving of penguins, a spouting whale, a ship under sail against towering glaciers and a flight of birds; scraps of paper marked with Chinese ideograms and handwritten numbers and symbols; and mechanical diagrams. A reflective, smoky blue sheet surrounds the glass-covered “raft”. It is a piece of X-ray film discarded from Gramercy Hospital in New York City. The film is face down and affixed to a sheet of paper that later developed ripples. The excavated book on the shallow side of the valise is John L. Stoddard’s Lectures (Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Supplementary Vol 1). Stoddard was a prolific writer and prodigious traveller. The lecture series appeared 1897 to 1898, haply coinciding with Mallarmé’s poem and death.
Valise for Mallarmé © Kathy Bruce. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Kathy Bruce.
Solitary Plume continues exploring Cornellian techniques with which to pay homage to Mallarmé. Cornell, too, was influenced by Mallarmé. He remarked that his boxes “are life’s experiences aesthetically expressed”, an echo of Mallarmé’s exhortation to describe not the thing but its effect. Even before it is opened, this cigar box wafts the effect of plumes of cigar smoke said to envelop Mallarmé as he held forth to the regular visitors to his Tuesday night salons. The solitary plume inside the lid poses as the “found” plume solitaire éperdue in Un Coup de Dés. In the poem, that plume solitaire is followed by the very lines printed on the edge of the triangular block of wood resting on a scrap of stiff, midnight blue material — the kind from which a cap (toque) might be made — in turn resting on a piece of crumpled velvet.
Comocíon, Contucíon, y Compresíon Cerebrales continues to reflect the influence of Joseph Cornell, but if it were viewed in any other context, we might miss that Mallarmé’s poem inspired it. The altered book’s title, difficult to make out on the spine, is Patología y clínica quirúrgicas (1873), a medical manual by Joseph-Auguste Fort, a French contemporary of Mallarmé. The manual’s shredded pages are packed around the wooden box embedded in the gutted medical manual. Inside the box, the dice can freely roll over the collaged print of ships. Among the packing at the foot of the box is a barely decipherable shred of a heading from the book that gives this work its title. How can Comocíon, Contucíon, y Compresíon Cerebrales (cerebral concussion, contusion and compression) be avoided in an altered book hanging tilted in a frame? What can protect against Chance that no roll of the dice can ever abolish or against the “bookwreck” in which the dice are embedded? What surrounds the altered book implies that they cannot. The crumpled white cloth (from the poem’s velours chiffonné) evokes not only a fallen sail but also a coffin’s lining in which the book lies.
© Kathy Bruce. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Kathy Bruce.
More on Bruce’s three works of homage here.
Kathy Bruce and Alastair R. Noble, Foldings (1998)
With Foldings, Bruce and Noble joined forces. Six masked dancers wear costumes that are in effect human-size folios across which the pages of Un Coup de Dés have been printed front and back in French. As a prerecorded English translation is read by numerous voices corresponding to the changing fonts, the dancers rotate and display the lines being read. A performance was given as part of the exhibition A Painter’s Poet, held at the Leubsborf Art Gallery (Hunter College). This fell under the aegis of the Millennium Mallarmé celebrations in New York, the poster for which can be seen below overlaying the staging sketches for the performance. Later, as part of an installation under the title Navigating the Abyss (Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, New Jersey), the costumes were suspended from the ceiling along with a framed screen mesh reminiscent of Noble’s As if / As If (see above).
© Kathy Bruce and Alastair Noble. Image and permission to display, courtesy of the artists.
Photo of staging sketches and poster: Books On Books Collection.
For a more “tech-fashionable” version, scroll down to Bruce and Noble’s Digital Mallarmé (2008), a collaboration with James Cook.
Michael Graeve, Hexagram 12. Obstruction. Earth Below, Heaven Above. Heaven and Earth Do Not Commune. (1998)
Michael Graeve‘s series of paintings appeared in the group exhibition “On the ashes of the stars …” curated by Michael Graf at Monash University in Australia to explore Mallarmé’s influence on the arts. Like many of the works seen so far, Graeve’s is a multiple homage, but his is the first to include composers in a visual medium. The series distinctively pays homage to Un Coup de Dés by taking it as an intermediary to John Cage and Pierre Boulez. Graeve had found the three of them drawn together in letters between Cage and Boulez in the 1950’s. In his website, Graeve writes:
for Cage, Mallarmé’s poem was a precursor and invitation to include chance procedures and indeterminacy into compositions. Boulez on the other hand was much more concerned with the retention of compositional control, and as a result incorporated explicit choice for the performer (rather than chance) into his work. — Michael Graeve, 2003.
© Artwork: Michael Graeve. Photo: Terence Bogue. Permission to display, courtesy of the artist.
Jim Clinefelter, A Throw of the Snore Will Surge the Potatoes (1998)
With images from a reprint of an early Sears Roebuck Catalogue and drawing on John M. Bennett‘s poetry as well as Un Coup de Dés, Jim Clinefelter composed his book on a borrowed Macintosh SE — the late twentieth-century substitute for penmanship. Mallarmé only thought of having some images from his friend Odilon Redon separated from the text Un Coup de Dés. Clinefelter’s sense of fun and close attention to the original led him to integrate those Sears images throughout with the text to mimic Mallarmé’s textual and typographic road signs. More on this parody here.
© Jim Clinefelter. Photo: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Jim Clinefelter.
Denis Cohen, Voile (1998)
Denis Cohen‘s musical homage for five instruments, recorded voice and computer was commissioned for the Musée d’Orsay exhibition in 1998. The homage to Un Coup de Dés is indirect. In his notes to the composition, Cohen explains that he is using only a framework of durations derived from two verses of Un Coup de Dés (unidentified) by which another of Mallarmé’s poems is read (La chevelure/”The head of hair”). The title of Cohen’s work means both “veil” and “sail”, which is a dual meaning that Mallarmé exploits in his poetry: a veil of hair, a sail in the wind. A brief extract can be heard here.
© Archivio Storico Ricordi property of Ricordi & C. S.r.l. All rights reserved. Image and permission to display, courtesy of the publisher.
Imants Tillers, Event Horizon II (1998), Not Yet Rose Mutabilis I (1998), Bonegilla II (1999)
In 1981, Imants Tillers had already begun a collective body of work known as The Book of Power, which has its roots in Mallarmé’s dictum “tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir à un livre“, variously translated as
“everything in the world exists to end up as a book”,
“everything in the world exists to end up in a book”,
“everything in the world exists in order to end in a book” [Susan Sontag’s version]
Tillers compiled the paintings from multiple individual canvasboards done in synthetic polymer paint and gouache. In 1998, he began to incorporate lines from Un Coup de Dés almost as a textual frame holding together the multiple canvasboards. But while the words inevitably contribute shared themes or motifs from Mallarmé’s poem, they are fully appropriated into Tillers’ own agenda, which leads in the next decade to a fruitful collaboration with Michael Nelson Jagamara.
© Imants Tillers. Event Horizon II (152.4 x 142.4 cm), Not Yet Rose Mutabilis I (152 x 142) and Bonegilla II (228.6 x 213.4 cm). Image courtesy of the artist.
Françoise Mairey, [title unknown] (1999)
It is a shame that no image of Mairey’s work of homage could be found for this exhibition. Fortunately, the brief catalogue for the 2003 exhibition in which it appeared has a useful description of it.
Françoise Mairey’s 1999 tribute to Un Coup de dés, like Masson’s, differs radically from Mallarmé’s original — it is compact, repetitive, and grid-like. She repeatedly typed each line of the poem until she created three-by-two-and-a-half-inch blocks of words, one block — or line — to a sheet of paper. Mairey recorded the date and place of her work at the bottom of each sheet, and she also noted the number of mistakes she made (both “evident” and “non-evident”), acknowledging the element of chance that caused her to hit the wrong key. Cheryl Hartup, Visual Poetics.
Mairey’s combination of the performance of creation with the artifact of creation recalls Ian Wallace’s approach in 1979 and 1993 and foreshadows that of Raffaella della Olga in 2018. Her metricizing and documenting the number of errors in the work shows an affinity with the Lettrists and Concrete Poets.
Albert Dupont, UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD — POÈME BLOC POÈME — DÉSIR-HASARD-DÉS (1999)
The wooden box holding this work and its transparent cubes may evoke thoughts of Joseph Cornell, but its exuberant Lettriste interior runs in a different direction entirely. It is a rare work, so Albert Dupont‘s description of it and the photos in Livre / Typographie, as well as its online presence at the Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet, offer welcome glimpses and insights. Dupont identifies the constituent parts of the work as five transparent dice variously inscribed and loosely embedded in the spine of a box-like tray of varnished wood encasing two renditions of the poem. Dupont calls these renditions poèmes-blocs. The first replicates the Ronat/Papp edition of the poem on transparent pages. Dupont calls the second section Calme-bloc, words taken from Mallarmé’s Le tombeau d’Edgar Allan Poe:
Calme bloc ici-bas chu d’un désastre obscur (Silent block fallen here from an obscure disaster)
Calme-bloc, also on transparent pages, consists of Dupont’s Lettrist interpretation of Un Coup de Dés, deploying type, hand-lettering, cursive script, drawings, diagrams and colors. In another layering, Dupont “revises” Mallarmé’s preface to the poem. He first prints the original, which begins famously “J’aimerais qu’on ne lût pas cette Note ou que parcourue, même on l’oubliât” (I would like this Note not to be read or, if read, to be forgotten even). Dupont alters it to “J’aimerais qu’on lût cette Note et que parcourue, même on s’en souvînt” (I would like this Note to be read and, if read, remembered even). Dupont’s re-reading/re-writing of the preface increases the chances of appreciating not only Mallarmé’s les blancs but also Dupont’s additional “unusual poetic elements, the geological or underwater transparency, les blocs“.
Unsurprisingly, Poème Bloc Poème was one of the works of homage selected for the 2003 exhibition curated by Renée Riese Hubert and Judd Hubert at the University of California-Irvine. The link above in this entry’s title leads to the WorldCat listing, from which other locations of the work can be found.
© Albert DuPont, all rights reserved 1999.
Images droits réservés, permission to display, courtesy of the Author and Bibliothèque Littéraire Jacques Doucet.
From 2000 to 2009 (22)
As noted at the start of this essay/exhibition, this decade boasted no fewer than five exhibitions of art paying homage to Un Coup de Dés, and its richness in works of homage continued that of the previous twenty years. It begins with two distinctly different installations.
Bill Seaman, Red Dice / Dés Chiffres (2000)
Bill Seaman‘s installation consists of two video projectors, a Macintosh G4 computer, Red Dice software, laser disc player, electronic tablet and pen, sound system, and a desk and chair. In 2001, it was presented under the auspices of the Daniel Langlois Foundation and Cinémathèque québécoise. Jacques Perron of the Foundation writes:
By assembling different forms of expression in a “recombinant poetics,”(2) Seaman appeals to our memory, our imagination and our perceptions as we weave our own web of meanings. For not only does the participant play an active, even performative, role that is necessary for the meaning to emerge, this role also calls the notion of author into question. Like his predecessors in conceptual art, Seaman steps aside in favour of his work, leaving the greater share to the navigator.
Seaman’s work presents the text of Un Coup de Dés and his own interactive audio/visual meta-text. It involves large-scale projections, and via a Pen/Wacom tablet interface, the viewer/user can touch words with the pen and activate their vocalization. This is the first digital work of homage and a nearly prescient response to Rosemary Lloyd’s comment in the same year:
Mallarmé’s evocation, in his study entitled “Étalages”, of a “reseau de communications” may not have included the world-wide web, but he would certainly have enjoyed finding himself transformed and represented in electronic media, and may well have reformulated Un coup de dés into something more digital.
© Bill Seaman. Displayed with permission of Bill Seaman.
Alastair Noble, Mallarmé 2000 (2000)
Following the installation As if / As if and performance Foldings, Alastair Noble embraced the tradition of “homage by redaction” with Mallarmé 2000, which was included in a well-reviewed installation at the Robert Pardo Gallery in New York. Arthur Danto remarks in Artforum:
The sculptor leaned six large, thick panels of glass against the wall, perching them on shelves. Deep troughs were sandblasted into the panels, corresponding to the way the lines and fragments of lines are arrayed in Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Des. The opaque troughs, from which Noble had entirely etched away any trace of language, were reflected as shadows on the wall. This almost metaphysical use of glass, with its vocabulary of transparency and translucency and its contrast between deep green edges and clear central area, manages to escape the decorativeness that dogs the medium.
In Sculpture magazine, Robert C. Morgan notes how the work signifies “the collapse of language through the cancellation of signs, the space in-between things” and comments:
The leap that Noble has taken is profoundly conceptual, yet visually exquisite….It is a revelatory exegesis on mental space and opens the threshold for how mental space can manifest itself as spatial presence through the cancellation of conventional signs,….
© Alastair Noble. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Alastair Noble.
Alain Satié, poéme: un coup de dés, bien ou mal armé, jamais n’abolira le hasard (2001)
Like Mallarmé seeking to create a unified whole from syntactic, spatial and typographic leaps across eleven double-page spreads, Alain Satié places small paintings, collages and book-like objects into pockets in the clear plastic sheet shown. Although the items differ from one another, the arrangement of pockets impose an order. The interpolation of bien ou mal armé (“well or badly armed”) in the title of Satié’s work deftly picks up the teetering, the diffidence and indecisions in Mallarmé’s poem. In their technique, the forty items seen here allude to Satié’s corpus: body art, collage, assemblage and, above all, Lettrisme.
© Alain Satié. From D’un coup de dés … l’espace du poème depuis Mallarmé (2007), curated by Patrick Cintas and commissioned by Ann-Sarah Delaroche for La Bibliothèque d’Étude et du Patrimoine de Toulouse. Displayed with permission of Patrick Cintas.
Michel Pierson, Jorge Camacho & Ptyx, Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard (2002)
From www.coupdedes.com captured 05 January 2012, Wayback Machine. Accessed 16 March 2021. Permission to display, courtesy of Michel Pierson.
From www.coupdedes.com captured 05 January 2012, Wayback Machine. Accessed 16 March 2021. Permission to display, courtesy of Michel Pierson.
With the encouragement and contribution of the late Cuban Surrealist, Jorge Camacho, Michel Pierson and Denis Péraudeau undertook a limited edition to match Mallarmé’s typographic wishes. Rare as that print edition is, we are fortunate that the Wayback Machine has captured the supporting website launched in 2010. At that site, the poem can be viewed and downloaded (pdf), although Camacho’s artwork is not shown. With the earlier efforts of Neil Crawford (above) and the later ones of Alain Hurtig (below), we have three clear views of the poem set in Didot.
Guido Molinari, Équivalence: Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard (2003)
In the first three minutes of this extract from the film Molinari: la couleur chante (2005), Molinari walks through an exhibition of Équivalence, discussing it with Roald Nasgaard and commenting on Un coup de Dés, its visual musicality and his transformation of it into his colourful geometric abstractions. The opportunity to see all of the poem ranged along one wall and all of Molinari’s abstractions along a facing wall is a pleasure. More on this homage here.
© Guido Molinari. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Fondation Guido Molinari.
Didier Mutel, Four Speeches by George Walker Bush [together with] Four Speeches by Tony Blair [together with] Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard (2003)
Mutel’s appropriation of Un Coup de Dés looks forward to Sammy Engramer’s reproduction of the poem in sound waves and recalls Danielle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub’s nine-voice reading in the Père Lachaise cemetery. There are three connected volumes in this work. They seem to present four speeches from George W. Bush, four from Tony Blair and the text of Un Coup de Dés — in the form of phonograms. The reality is that the images are all the same — sound waves from an unidentified man reading Mallarmé’s poem. The false visualization of the politician’s speeches implies we are no wiser to what they were saying than we are to “reading” Mallarmé’s words shown as sound waves.
© Didier Mutel. Photos: Books On Books, taken at the KB|nationale bibliotheek van Nederland, The Hague. Displayed with permission of Didier Mutel.
Chris Edwards, A Fluke: A Mistranslation of Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Un Coup De Dés…” with Parallel French Pretext (2005)
Chris Edwards‘ A Fluke follows in the footsteps of several parodists of Un Coup de Dés. He mingles bilingual homophonic mistranslation with the monolingual variety, false cognates, mis-contextualization and more to deliver his “fluke”. Part of that “more” leads off with the subtitle and side-by-side prefaces. The pun in “pretext” plays out not just in the word itself but in Edwards’ squeezing into one page the French pre-text alongside its English exaggeration. The squeeze harks back to Mallarmé’s “Note” being added to the Cosmopolis issue, where it first appeared, at the insistence of the editors. Having led with the pun and clown-car layout, Edwards follows on with a fright wig (mixed metaphors, too, are part of the “more”). He turns Mallarmé’s tongue-in-cheek “I would prefer that one not read this Note or that having read it, one forgets it” into “I wish I knew what lunatic pasted this Note here — …”. Edwards’ madcapping his way to A Fluke must have been part of a global warming trend in pastiche. How else to explain Jim Clinefelter’s A Throw of the Snore Will Surge the Potatoes (1998), John Tranter’s “Desmond’s Coupé” (2006) and Rodney Graham’s Poème: Au Tatoueur (2011)? More on Edwards’ homage here.
Aurélie Noury, Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (rubik’s cube)(2005) and Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (poster) (2008)
These two works of homage run the spectra of small to large as well as three- to two-dimensions. Each one lays claim to being the thing for summarizing, critiquing, parodying and paying homage to le Maître‘s work. If the game is “the total expansion of the letter”, as Mallarmé declaimed, would the dispersal of the poem’s spaces and letters across the many faces of a Rubik’s cube not be the total reduction of the letter? Or would it be the collapse of the spacing and text in its various type sizes and styles into one 70 x 100 cm double-page spread? Noury provides us with two works by which to contemplate these questions. More on Noury’s work here.
© Aurélie Noury. Images and permission to display, courtesy of the artist.
Marine Hugonnier, The Bedside Book Project (2006-07)
The Bedside Book Project is a quintuple homage. It begins with this anecdote:
In 1945 René Magritte gave Marcel Broodthaers a copy of Mallarmé’s poem as ‘a way of explaining his art to a young admirer without explaining it literally’. In 1969, Broodthaers modified an edition of the poem by covering all its words with black stripes that correspond directly to the typographic layout used by Mallarmé to articulate the text. In this way, Mallarmé’s poem, which Broodthaers considered had unconsciously invented modern space, is reduced to its structure.
From here, Marine Hugonnier‘s imagination takes hold. As if in a film scene, she moves into the bedrooms of Redon, Schwitters and Hamilton, steals their copies of Un Coup de Dés from their bedside tables, alters each one by inserting images and then replaces them. The result is a series of installations in which the pages of their altered books are displayed on the gallery walls. Each has its “book title”: La forme du mystère (Odilon Redon), Altération (Kurt Schwitters) and L’espace social (Richard Hamilton). Here is Hugonnier’s description of Redon’s book and the installation performance in which it is presented:
The Bedside Book Project: La forme du mystère (Odilon Redon). Source: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, displayed with permission of Marine Hugonnier.
The Bedside Book Project: Altération (Kurt Schwitters). Source: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, displayed with permission of Marine Hugonnier.
The Bedside Book Project: L’espace social No.2 (Richard Hamilton). Source: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, displayed with permission of the Marine Hugonnier.
More on this challenging and rewarding installation here.
Isabella Checcaglini and Mohammed Bennis, POÉME: Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard (Ypsilon Éditeur, 2007)
Despite other publishers’ earlier efforts to publish an edition of the poem as Mallarmé intended it, Isabella Checcaglini, Ypsilon Éditeur’s founder and director, felt that gaps remained — specifically, first, that there was no version that included Odilon Redon’s three prints (top row below) and, second, that there was no version in Arabic (bottom row below). Checcaglini arranged with the renowned Moroccan poet Mohammed Bennis to fill the latter gap. In addition, she compiled a separate volume of essays: Bennis’ journal of translation notes and his correspondence with Checcaglini and Bernard Noël, the French writer and poet; her own essay recounting the history of Mallarmé’s uncompleted livre d’artiste with Ambroise Vollard and Odile Redon, including excerpts of correspondence among the interested parties; and Bernard Noël’s appreciation of the poem. The suite consists of four volumes: the poem in French and Arabic, the essays in French and Arabic.
This important edition should be read with Penny Florence’s book near to hand. Mallarmé, Manet and Redon insists that Un Coup de Dés must be experienced with Redon’s prints in place and shows us how to read it. Florence’s guidance has the added benefit that its example can be followed with the other works of homage in this essay exhibition.
© Ypsilon Éditeur. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Ypsilon Éditeur.
Kathy Bruce, Navigating the Abyss (2008)
With Navigating the Abyss, Kathy Bruce picks up the Cornellian baton again. Rigging-like thread wraps around a copy of Intermediate Reader, a relic from a series of readers compiled between 1867 and 1927 for the Brothers of the Christian Schools, headquartered in Montreal, which recalls Mallarmé’s school-teaching days. Three triangles of wood panelling are attached to the book’s back cover, a deft choice of material for the sail-like seams and shape. A glossy piece of postcard or a cut from the cover of an art book depicting a gilded hand, open as if having just rolled the dice, occupies one corner of the cover. It’s impossible to say whether it is the lower or upper, left or right, as the book has been turned upside down and back to front in its altering (note the photos above). The three loose lenses add to this effect of shipwreck detritus, as does the convex lens embedded like a porthole in the book and revealing a torn page and part of a handwritten letter presumably left in the book. Across from the convex lens, the pasted-down diagram is a scaled drawing of a template for what appears to be a rigging pulley with a diameter of 9 and 3/4 inches. The collaged precision diagram alludes not only to the ship but also to the poem’s reference to anciens calculs. It adds to the artifice and abstraction of poem, book, ship and flotsam that Bruce has created.
© Kathy Bruce. Photo: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Kathy Bruce.
Kathy Bruce, James Cook and Alastair Noble, Digital Mallarmé (2008)
Mallarmé — as editor and heteronymic author of La Dernière Mode, as fellow admirer of new technologies with Octave Uzanne, and as ecstatic theorist of the dance in his essay Ballets — would surely have embraced Digital Mallarmé. Following their Foldings performance (see above), Kathy Bruce and Alastair Noble engaged with James Cook (then Chair of the 3D Division in the University of Arizona Tucson School of Art) to submit this entry for the College Art Association’s “Social Fabrics: LEONARDO Educational Forum Exhibition” in Dallas, Texas. Employing screen mesh, fabric, bamboo frame, Japanese rice paper, LCD displays, video monitors, CD player and power packs, Digital Mallarmé displays text with interpretive digital video images extracted from Un Coup de Dés.
It is curious that it took so long after Bill Seaman’s Red Dice for another digital work of homage to come along. The year before, Émile Fromet de Rosnay at the University of Victoria (Canada) mounted a web-rendering of Un Coup de Dés that enables the user to undertake the kind of syntactic and semantic tracking and re-presentation of the poem that Claude Roulet did in print with his publications in the 1940s as well as that by Klaus Detjen in his 1995 homage. Fromet de Rosnay’s and his colleagues’ work also foreshadows the digital techniques in the later works of homage by Karen ann Donnachie and Andy Simionato, Tayyib Yavuz and Derek Beaulieu (see below).
© Kathy Bruce, James Cook and Alasdair Noble. Link, images and permission to display, courtesy of Kathy Bruce and Alastair Noble.
Michael Maranda, UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD: POÈME/IMAGE/LIVRE (2008)
Michael Maranda calls his work a “meditation on les blancs“, the term that Mallarmé used in his 1897 preface to Un Coup de Dés to draw attention to the blank spaces surrounding the carefully scattered lines of verse. It is also an homage to Marcel Broodthaers as much as to Mallarmé. In all of the pages that follow the preface (“translated” by Babelfish into Dutch, then into English, and then printed in black for the English and reverse-out against a cream-colored background for the French), Maranda inks around Broodthaers’ blancs with cream-colored ink. Paradoxically, Mallarmé’s text and Broodthaers’ black stripes have become blank spaces, and les blancs to which they drew attention have been printed in cream. More on Maranda’s homage here.
© Michael Maranda. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Michael Maranda.
Michalis Pichler, UN COUP DE DÉS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD: SCULPTURE (2008)
Michalis Pichler appropriates Mallarmé through Broodthaers’ design and production: an efficient and direct double appropriation. He follows the trim size and layout of the 1914 and 1969 works. Further underscoring the double appropriation, he reprints verbatim Broodthaers’ preface (the full text of Mallarmé’s poem set in small type as a single paragraph with obliques separating the lines of verse). Like Broodthaers, he produced limited editions of three versions: 10 copies in plexiglas (rather than Broodthaers’ 10 in anodized aluminum), 90 copies in translucent paper (just as Broodthaers had done) and 500 copies in paper (rather than Broodthaers’ 300). Where Broodthaers had solid black stripes, though, Pichler substitutes laser cuts in the translucent and paper editions and engraving or abrasion in the plexiglas edition. Hence Sculpture (2008), rather than Image (1969) or Poème (1914). In 2017, Pichler would expand on his appropriation and inventiveness (see below in the next decade). More on Pichler’s works of homage here.
Pichler’s Sculpture editions: paper, translucent and plexiglas. Photo: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Michalis Pichler.
Cerith Wyn Evans, ‘… après Stéphane Mallarmé’ (2008) and Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’abolira le Hasard (2009)
Cerith Wyn Evans‘ 2008 homage adopts the neon medium for which he is well known. Although his 2009 work reverts to paper, it does so in a way that continues his trademark celebration of light and shadow. Of course, Evans’ version of Un Coup de Dés pays double homage to Mallarmé and his redacteurs such as Broodthaers. Rather than in book format, though, the pages are framed and hung, allowing the pebbled wall behind the excisions to show through. More on Evans’ work here.
© Cerith Wyn Evans. Photos: Jan Kempenaers. Permission to display, courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery and Cerith Wyn Evans.
Rainier Lericolais, Carton Perforé (2009)
In Rainier Lericolais‘ homage, the words and lines of Mallarmé’s poem take up their positions as perforations on a continuous paper roll used for a barrel organ or hurdy-gurdy. For a multidisciplinary artist and musician, Lericolais’ choice of medium here is highly appropriate, as is the choice of Mallarmé’s poem for an artist in pursuit of “grasping the elusive“. The work is now in the permanent collection at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou.
© Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou. Photo: Lili Kim. Displayed with permission of Rainier Lericolais.
Raffaella della Olga, Un Coup De Dés Jamais N’abolira Le Hasard – Constellation (2009)
Six years after Raffaella della Olga created this homage, Paulo Pires do Vale included it in the “Pliure” exhibition at the Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian in Paris. An attendant ushers the visitor into a small enclosed area where a white volume is propped on a stand. The attendant moves behind the book, the small room begins to darken, and the attendant begins to turn the pages. Phosphorescent ink painted on each letter of the poem begins to glow, and the words emerge like stars in a constellation. More on della Olga’s work here.
© Raffaella della Olga. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Raffaella della Olga.
Jérémie Bennequin, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard: Omage (2009-14)
Jérémie Bennequin argues in the preface to his multi-volume boxed work that Un Coup de Dés does not abolish chance but rather enhances, elevates, ennobles it, and he poses the two questions that initiated his homage. The first is Or, le hasard peut-il abolir Un Coup de Dés? (So, can chance abolish Un Coup de Dés?) He argues that, being an artist of the eraser, he is well-suited to erasing or abolishing Mallarmé’s work, and that rolling the die to direct his act of erasure or abolition is fitting. But then comes his second crucial question: … comment définir au juste, dans le détail, la cible de chaque coup? (how to define in detail the target of each throw?)
After considering such targets as the letter, the word, the page, the double-page spread, Bennequin settles on the syllable for reasons reflecting Mallarmé’s own theories of poetry and music. Booklet 1.0 represents the starting point displaying the poem in its entirety, with the next volume 1.1 being the outcome of the end of a live performance on 23 October 2009, which involved Bennequin decomposing Mallarmé’s poem by repeatedly rolling a die then locating, vocalising and erasing the syllable corresponding to the number rolled. This occurred on computer screen in real time. With each of the subsequent eighteen performances, the starting point was the state arrived at in the preceding booklet; 1.2 began with 1.1, 1.3 with 1.2 and so on. By the last performance, very little — but something — of Un Coup de Dés was left. So Bennequin has the answer to his first question. As he puts it in the last sentence of his preface: Le hasard jamais n’abolira Un Coup de Dés (Chance will never abolish Un Coup de Dés). More on Bennequin’s homage here.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Permission to display from Jérémie Bennequin.
Sammy Engramer, UN COUP DE DÈS JAMAIS N’ABOLIRA LE HASARD: Wave (2009)
Where Fraenkel, Diacono and Broodthaers gave us images of the text covered up, and where Evans, Lericolais and Pichler gave us images and planes of the text excised, Sammy Engramer presents us with sonograms — visualizations of the text being read aloud. Superficially, Engramer’s work might be considered an homage to these other homage. Unlike them, however, the text is still there, not blotted out or cut out, and yet, the visualization is not readable. Theoretically, one might scan the printed sonograms and generate a mechanical reading-aloud of the text, but that’s another artwork to be read. More on Engramer’s homage here.
Michalis Pichler, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard: Musique (2009)
Michalis Pichler‘s Musique version of Un Coup de Dés had its visual precursor in Rainier Lericolais’ Carton Perforé, but as a working mechanical homage, it is without precedent. In the next decade, in Pichler’s Milan solo exhibition appropriating Broodthaers’ Antwerp exhibition, visitors were allowed a “feet-on” encounter with the piece. More on Pichler’s works of homage here.
© Michalis Pichler. Image and permission to display, courtesy of Michalis Pichler.
From 2010 to 2019 (39)
The number of works in this period almost doubles that in the previous decade, which is reflected in Michalis Pichler’s 2017 exhibition that expanded his appropriation of Broodthaers’ appropriation of Mallarmé. Not only did the exhibition include his Sculpture version of Broodthaers’ Image version of Un Coup de Dés and appropriate the title of Broodthaers’ exhibition that introduced the Image version, it also included appropriations from a dozen or so other artists. Among them was Sammy Engramer’s Wave (2009), but in 2010, Engramer held his own exhibition expanding Wave from the two-dimensional to the three-dimensional as well as adding an animation.
Sammy Engramer, JAMAIS (2010)
For this exhibition, Engramer prepared eighteen 3D PVC renderings of the sonograms and a large-scale animation of a rolling die. In one room, the pages from Wave ranged along the wall. In a hall-like room with the animation projected on the endwall, the PVC renderings occupied the walls leading to the die at the end. As tangible as the PVC renderings are — sounds made palpable — we are now more removed from the text than we were with the haptic book of printed sonograms. Where, with les blancs and the shape of the page, Mallarmé was addressing a crisis of language and representation in the face of chance and nothingness, Engramer amplifies the address with these visual, physical and multimedia renderings or transformations of Mallarmé’s entire poem. More on Engramer’s homage here.
Images and permission to display, courtesy of Sammy Engramer.
Raffaella della Olga, Jamais Le Hasard N’abolira Un Coup De Dés – Permutation (2010)
On Raffella della Olga’s website, there is a link behind the image that goes to an online presentation. The image, however, is of a unique, analogue work. The artist has taken apart a Gallimard edition of the work, folded the double pages and deleted with white paint all of the poem except each of the words from its title. A close look at the framed pages will detect the faint shadows of the painted-over text. On the wall, the permutation arises in the changeable order of hanging, which the online algorithm permits the viewer to perform.
© Raffaella della Olga. Image and permission to display, courtesy of Raffaella della Olga.
Alexandra Leykauf, Alexandra Leykauf: Chateau de Bagatelle (2010)
The photo in question is the 78th among 81 photos that mirror and document an installation exhibited by Alexandra Leykauf at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2010. In the photo, a double-page spread has been removed from a book, folded and creased into a three-dimensional shape. Or perhaps, as hinted in the interview at the end of the book, it is an enlarged re-creation staged for the photo. The catalogue provides no caption for it or any other image. The text concluding the catalogue does not clarify what it is. Only for someone familiar with Marcel Broodthaers’ homage to Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard are the pages recognizable. More on
© Alexandra Leykauf. Image and permission to display, courtesy of Alexandra Leykauf.
John King, Dice Thrown (2010)
Given that the first “intermedial” response to Mallarmé’s poem was Man Ray’s Les Mystères du Château de Dé (1929), and given the performative homage of Art et Action, Strauss and Huillet, and Bruce and Noble, how much of a stretch for the poem’s influence can it be to inspire an opera for two sopranos, mezzo-soprano, six dancers, orchestra, live electronics, and live video? John King describes his work as “a chance-determined opera, where order, duration, spacing of each vocal part, all orchestral parts, dance fragments, order, spacing and duration are all chance determined TWICE, once for the first ‘act’ (30 minutes) which is followed by an entr’acte of 5 minutes, followed by a separately chance-determined second ‘act’ of 30 minutes duration”. The link above goes to a roughly 8-minute segment of the full version as presented by CalArts. The opera had its world premiere at his alma mater the California Institute of the Arts. Reviews here.
© John King. Link and permission to display courtesy of John King.
Rodney Graham, Poème : “Au Tatoueur” (2011)
As with many of the homage to Un Coup de Dés, the subtitle here matters. Being in quotation marks, Rodney Graham‘s subtitle indicates that what follows is a missive, not a form. The missive addressed to a local tattoo artist was arranged à la Mallarmé and described an image of Popeye that Graham wanted. But the twist that makes Graham’s version work is the translation of the instructions into French and their publication in the 1913 format of Mallarmé’s poem. This is an intricate “set-up”. In a way, it is analogous to Mallarmé’s careful attention to the positioning of words and lines, the kind of mise-en-scène that characterizes much of Graham’s photography and painting. More on Graham’s homage here.
© Rodney Graham. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Rodney Graham.
Ian Wallace, Table with Un Coup de Dés I, II, III (2011)
This is the third of Ian Wallace’s works of homage to Un Coup de Dés. On each canvas, the rectangles of pastels and white that overlap one another like working papers on a desk surround a photo displaying a work surface in the artist’s studio. This could be Wallace’s version of Rien n’aura eu lieu que le lieu (Nothing will have taken place except the place). For Wallace, the “place” that is central to so many of his works is the site of creation — the paradoxical place where nothing will have taken place except the place of creating, which is also the creation (work of art) that we are viewing.
© Ian Wallace. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Catriona Jeffries Gallery.
Ruth Loos and Frouke Hermens, “Eye Drawings” (2011)
Under the guidance of Professor Johan Wagemans at the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology, University of Leuven, Frouke Hermens and Ruth Loos created this animation to show captured eye-movements evoked by the features of the fourth page of the poem. Nature may not proceed by leaps, but in reading, the eye moves by leaps only, called saccades. The white line in the animation tracks side-to-side movements, the blue dot tracks ones up and down. In her article on the experiment, Loos declines to call the results of the animation an artwork, even though it was displayed in the Nottebohm Room of the Library Hendrik Conscience in Antwerp (6 August to 11 September 2011) positioned between the 1914 edition and Broodthaers’ “redacted” version. But why not? Compare and contrast this animation with Donnachie and Simionato’s work below.
© Frouke Hermens and Ruth Loos. Displayed with permission of Ruth Loos.
Daniela Deeg and Cynthia Lollis, Ein Würfelwurf kann den Zufall nicht abschaffen/A Throw of the Dice will Never Abolish Chance (2011)
Daniela Deeg in Germany and Cynthia Lollis in the US use pairs of Dutch, French, German, and/or English words printed on translucent paper illustrated with flat screenprinted simplified versions of photographs to address a core challenge that Mallarmé faces in his poem: in the presence of chance, how is language — the essential act of creativity — possible?
In Deeg’s and Hollis’ work, the pairs of words are synonyms. But, they ask, are they the same? Given how language is laden with connotations, can a word in one language really represent what a word in another language represents? And, if direct translation from one language to another is not possible, can language directly translate experience? More on this work here.
© Daniela Deeg and Cynthia Lollis. Images, courtesy of Vamp & Tramp. Displayed with permission of Daniela Deeg and Cynthia Lollis.
Jorge Méndez Blake, Biblioteca Mallarmé/Mallarmé Library (2011), Du fond d’un naufrage (2011) and Toute Pensée Émet un Coup de Dés (2013)
Jorge Méndez Blake’s originality in the homage Mallarmé Library arrives through multiple juxtapositions: the idea of the poem’s shipwreck with the resinous burnt detritus on the table; the detritus with the book-shaped rectangular blocks on the table; the flotsam and floating books in the print on the wall; the two-dimensional prints with the three-dimensional blocks; the black rectangular blocks with the idea of Marcel Broodthaers’ black redactions in his homage or appropriation.
Appropriation is very much a theme in 2011 exhibition and the other two works. The title Du fond d’un naufrage (From the bottom of a shipwreck) is lifted from Un Coup de Dés, and the artist has placed a copy of the poet’s Collected Poems and Other Verse on the floor, spine out as if on a shelf and squeezed tightly between two columns of bricks. Using the poem’s final line for the title of Toute Pensée Émet un Coup de Dés (All thought emits a throw of the dice), the artist reproduces with colored pencil nine classic shipwreck scenes and tilts them in their frames, thus paying homage to Mallarmé’s use of layout to evoke the image of a foundering ship. More on Méndez Blake’s works here.
© Jorge Méndez Blake. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Jorge Méndez Blake.
Brian Larosche, Un Coup de 3Dés (2012)
Brian Larosche‘s oversized version of Un Coup de Dés requires the intervention of 3D glasses. Its large black cover suggests a dark movie screen on which Larosche’s version of the poem will play out in 3D. But why 3D? Trying to read Un Coup de Dés while wearing a pair of 3D glasses challenges the eyes’ patience just as much as the poem’s ambiguities challenge the mind’s. Within the Coup de Dés genre, there is a necessary strain of strained humor. Without it, art runs the risk of taking us too seriously. More on Larosche’s analglyphic slapstick here.
© Brian Larosche. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Brian Larosche.
Estelle J., STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ: Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (n.d.)
Little information has emerged about this artist or her work that arrived in a shipment from a dealer based in Italy. He seemed to recall that she was young and at a table of her own at an exhibition in … was it Barcelona or Madrid? There is only the artist’s signature at the end of the work and an indication that it is the sixth of six copies. The dealer remembers that each of the six varied due to their handmade nature. Without a date, in which decade in this exhibition does it belong? With its three tipped-in pages inside a double-sided accordion structure, with their mix of laser-cut and printed text, with the bright collage of abstract and figurative images, the work speaks for itself. The cuts place it among the “works of homage by redaction”, for example, Bennequin (2009), Nash (2012) or Lorand (2015), but it comes after the adoption of laser cutting in artists’ books, for example, that by Pichler (2017). Its bright colors place it among the bursts of color from Deeg and Hollis (2011), Méndez Blake (2011) and Larosche (2012).
Richard Nash, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard — Espace (2012)
Richard Nash‘s manipulation of Daler-Rowney 180gsm Jet Black Canford paper into this concertina of inverted silhouettes of Broodthaers’ redactions proves that originality in paying homage to Mallarmé and his redacteurs has not been exhausted. Nash has converted Mallarmé’s les blancs into the night sky against which the excision of Broodthaers’ redactions enacts a constellation — just as the poet implies the words will do. The concertina structure introduces an enhancing movement to Mallarmé’s double-page spreads that mimics both the rise and fall of waves and the transit of stars at night. Nash has wed simplicity to Mallarmé’s complexity and the redacteurs’ abstraction.
© Richard Nash. Image and permission to display, courtesy of Richard Nash.
Alain Hurtig, Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard par Stéphane Mallarmé (2012)
In the previous decade, Aurélie Noury collapsed all of the poem’s text inventively into a poster-size double-page spread. Here, for his homage in book form, Hurtig displays his originality by avoiding the red-bordered NrF cover and collapsing all of the text into a single-page text block for his cover. In addition to his freely downloadable version of the poem, Hurtig insightfully provides side-by-side views of different versions of Bodoni and views of a page of the poem set in three different typefaces that he considered as substitutes. Hurtig’s essay stands well in comparison with Robert Massin’s in Livre / Typologie, edited by Hélène Campaignolle-Catel et al.
© Catherine Belœil in the artwork. Images and permission to display, courtesy of Alain Hurtig. Displayed at 67%.
Johanna Drucker, Stochastic Poetics (2012).
Not entirely an homage to Un Coup de Dés, Johanna Drucker‘s work nevertheless hits the bull’s eye with “Constellationary living / language” and “MOOmeNTARY CoNsTeLLaTiOn” on its unnumbered pages 27 and 40. In the midst of a scattering of words and letters that make Un Coup de Dés look staid, Drucker’s two phrases could not more clearly evoke Mallarmé’s lines “Nothing will have taken place except the place… except perhaps a constellation”. Once the connection with Un Coup de Dés is detected, the etched aluminum cover shown on the left below will recall Broodthaers’ anodized pages photographed by Charles Bernstein (see above). While these sparks of recognition between Drucker’s and Mallarmé’s poems may be feeble for some, this brief passage from one of her essays may add wattage:
Another set of three phrases “Except” “Perhaps” and “A Constellation” form a typographic group. Indeed, they express the crucial exception to the terms of abyss and dissolution, scattering and fragmentation, …. Redescribed in the smaller roman font as features incidentally
created through “obliquity” and “declination” –- astronomical terms -– that are reinforced by invocation of the “Septentrion” or Big Dipper, and the north star …. The final line, “All thought expresses a throw of the dice,” recapitulates the theme of the whole work, showing that thought as well as language is caught in the probabilistic system between chance and constellationary form. — Drucker, 2011, pp. 12-13.
Jérémie Bennequin, LE HASARD N’ABOLIRA JAMAIS UN COUP DE DÉS: OMAGE (2014)
Jérémie Bennequin‘s second homage to Un Coup de Dés literally picks up where the first left off. In his preface to the first homage, its last sentence is Le hasard jamais n’abolira Un Coup de Dés (Chance will never abolish Un Coup de Dés). The inversion of Mallarmé’s title is a signal of further inversions to come, and that subtitle OMAGE is a signal within the signal. Recall that Broodthaers replaced Mallarmé’s subtitle Poème with Image; now open Bennequin’s Omage to find Mallarmé’s words reappearing, albeit inverted and reversed out, against Broodthaers’ black bars of redaction. Further inversions are revealed here.
© Jérémie Bennequin. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Jérémie Bennequin.
William G. Franklin, Toute Pensée émet un Coup de Dés (2014)
William G. Franklin‘s “video reverie” begins with a video clip of an indistinct vessel on the ocean, then comes the sound of dice being shaken and then suddenly comes the view and sound of dice striking a wall, coming to rest on a gray surface that begins to undulate. As the dice “roll” with the surface, another clip suddenly comes into view — a rain-swept road seen through a windshield — only to be displaced with another throw of the dice against the wall and again their undulating on the gray surface — only to be displaced by a video clip of a bronze statue of a dog or wolf in a city garden — only to be displaced with another throw of the dice … and so on for six minutes. The external-world clips range around the globe — as if everything in the world exists to wind up between the dice throws of this video reverie.
© William G. Franklin. Displayed with permission of William G. Franklin.
Kathy Bruce, Navigating the Abyss (2014)
© Kathy Bruce. Image and permission to display, courtesy of Kathy Bruce.
Jean-Jacques Birgé, Un Coup de Dés à l’Atelier du Plateau (2014)
Jean-Jacques Birgé‘s homage is a series of improvisatory performances driven by cards drawn by the audience from Oblique Strategies, the creativity deck designed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. Each card in the deck offers an axiom, question, instruction or simply a word — “Discard an axiom”; “Honor thy error as a hidden intention”; “What are the sections sections of?”; “Reverse”. In the throes of recording, painting or improv, draw a card and act on it.
The performance below includes Birgitte Lyregaard and Linda Edsjö and Jean-Jacques Birgé. Other performances with Pascal Contet and Antonin-Tri Hoang available here and with Médéric Collignon and Julien Desprez here.
© Jean-Jacques Birgé. Displayed with permission of Jean-Jacques Birgé.
Robert Bononno and Jeff Clark, A Roll of the Dice: Poème: Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard par Stéphane Mallarmé (2015)
Jeff Clark has designed this book for a dramatic entrance: eleven double-page spreads presenting in large type the English title (interrupted with a full-bleed double-page spread of random-light burst-mode photographs of black-and-white laserprints) followed by Mallarmé’s name in equally large type. The words in all caps Helvetica type bounce across the pages like dice, or rise and fall like waves.
Both the English and French versions of the preface and poem occur without interruption by images (as Mallarmé would have wished) and in the layout implied by Mallarmé’s mark up of proofs before his death. Their relatively plain sailing, contrasted with the book’s dramatic opening, actually draws attention to the disruptive and groundbreaking nature of the poem’s intended layout and variations in typography.
The dramatic opening of double-page spreads returns at the end of the English version. Four spreads of undulating photographs of the seabed separate it from the French version. The spreads begin with a blow-up shot of seaweed or coracle and encrusted wreckage, then back off to a slightly longer shot in the next two spreads and return to a blow-up in the fourth spread. Although these are stills, their manipulation over the pages conveys a sense of underwater movement. Four more double-page spreads conclude the book with photographs so blown-up and darkening that they leave the reader/viewer wondering if the phosphorescent underwater world has metamorphosed into a constellation. Bononno and Clark’s edition was well-reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and more on this homage can be found here.
© Robert Bononno and Jeff Clark. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Jeff Clark.
Michel Lorand, Après Un Coup de Dés (2015)
At first glance, Michel Lorand’s Après Un Coup de Dés (2015) appears to replicate the approaches of Michalis Pichler and Cerith Wyn Evans in the previous decade. Look closer though. Après presents as an unfinished work, a book not yet trimmed and bound, which reflects not only Mallarmé’s unfinished realization of the poem as a book but also his unfinished life’s pursuit: le Livre, the thing in which everything in the world would end up — the thing that, by virtue of a spacious mobility of typographic layout and the interplay of its elements, would be “the total expansion of the letter”. Lorand’s attention and manual precision in excising the blackened blocks where the text would otherwise appear also evoke Mallarmé’s attention to the minute details of typeface, size and font shown in his handwritten mark-up of the proofs for the book edition he was planning before he died. More on Lorand’s homage here.
© Michel Lorand. Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of Michel Lorand.
Karen ann Donnachie and Andy Simionato, athrowofthedicewillneverabolishchance (2015)
Although Penny Florence released an interactive CD ROM celebrating Un Coup de Dés in 2000, it is curious that it took so long for a digital work of homage to validate Rosemary Lloyd’s comment in 2000:
Mallarmé’s evocation, in his study entitled “Étalages”, of a “reseau de communications” may not have included the world-wide web, but he would certainly have enjoyed finding himself transformed and represented in electronic media, and may well have reformulated Un coup de dés into something more digital.
Together, Karen ann Donnachie and Andy Simionato and, separately, Tayyib Yavuz delivered on the potential at the same time. Because of the proliferation of works of homage, Donnachie and Simionato wondered whether the poem contains some sort of self-propagating seed. After analyzing the poem’s layout and type styles with geospatial statistical tools, they built an algorithm that served up its double-page spreads, then reordered them according to throws of two die, and redistributed the poem’s text from its original order into the new order of spreads. While the results were interesting in an Oulipo-esque way, their breakthrough came in hitching up the algorithm to Google’s reCAPTCHA system.
The reCAPTCHA system is a version of the Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA) system. To thwart unauthorized access by mechanical means, CAPTCHA presents distorted characters that a human can recognize but Optical Character Recognition systems cannot. A part of the the Google book-scanning project, reCAPTCHA used crowdsourcing to train its scanning system.
Now instead of using Mallarmé’s text to repopulate their algorithmically generated series of Mallarméan double-page spreads, they asked reCAPTCHA to supply words that would resist parsing or semantic understanding by computers. As Donnachie and Simionato put it, “In this way, A Throw of the Dice becomes a recombinatorial, recursive, self-productive machine capable of making and unmaking meaning across both Mallarmé’s cryptic ‘unfinal’ book of poetry and Google’s book project, each meeting points of the book a century apart.”
© Karen ann Donnachie and Andy Simionato. Displayed with permission of Karen ann Donnachie and Andy Simionato. After being given access to the Google Maps database, reCAPTCHA could return text and characters from signage, which in turn was supplied to the authors’ algorithmic request.
Tayyib Yavuz, Experiment Book (2015)
Tayyib Yavuz‘s digital artwork also follows the premise of the book as an autonomous and autocratic object rather than just a container for plain text. Using the game engine Unity3D, Yavuz animates the poem in a 3D virtual reality.
As the application opens, the viewer sees black dice floating upwards (or perhaps the viewer is floating downwards). Behind the dice and in the background is the black-on-white text of the poem, curving as if printed on the inside of a sphere. Broken beams like a ship’s hull come into sight above and around the falling viewer, and the viewer lands on a walkway leading to stairs ascending to the single dot on the ever-enlarging face on one of the black die. The animation carries the viewer forward up the stairs; into and through the dot, which has a swirling, watery appearance; and into a blackness shaped like the single dot. The blackness suddenly disappears, and the viewer sees a red curtain with the text of the poem’s title page on it; the curtain flutters and floats against a completely white background. As the curtain moves along an axis toward the viewer, expands, fills the screen and, seemingly, passes around and behind the viewer, the first page of the Préface comes into view in the distance, moving toward the viewer. When the first page “passes through” the viewer, and the second page appears in the distance, the white background that was above, below and to either side of the first page disappears. Blackness fills the space on the left and right. Overhead and underfoot (as it were), two white scrolls with blurry text roll past. Approaching in the distance are the pages of the poem, ranked one behind another. Yet, each page consists only of its lines of text as blocks floating in space.
Using the cursor — much as in Google’s Street View map — the viewer can move 360º “inside the poem”. As the pages continue to move along their axis, the viewer can see the edges of the blocks as they pass by. If the viewer rotates the perspective with the cursor by 180º along that axis, the pages reverse their direction of movement, and the blocks of text move away from the viewer. The viewer can also look 180º up and down. The scrolls unrolling overhead and underfoot are, in fact, the poem. For a peek at LE MAÎTRE with the dice in his hand, go back to the application’s start and look straight up.
© Tayyib Yavuz. Displayed with permission of Tayyib Yavuz.
© Tayyib Yavuz. Displayed with permission of Tayyib Yavuz.
James Reynolds, A Throw of the dice will never abolish chance (2015)
James Reynolds describes the work as “a scenario for narrator, cello, percussion and trumpet”. It was commissioned by the Sydney Conservatory of Music and premiered there on 5 September 2017.
Reynolds’ choice of the word “narrator” and his description of the narrator as a “non-participant” in the story he or she is relating in a calm demeanor are interesting. In his preface and correspondence, Mallarmé downplays any intended narrative line, but when discussing the performance of the long-intended Livre, he describes a role that aligns with the one Reynolds assigns.
The music does not attempt to relate to the imagery of the poem. My goal in writing the scenario was not simply to provide a musical accompaniment, but rather through the use of suggestion, allusion and ambiguity to explore simultaneous and sequential moments rather than goal orientated event progressions.