Syllabus - "The Role of Chance"

Course
The Role of Chance

Instructor
Michael Bowdidge

Description
This three day practical workshop seeks to explore the role of chance (and its corollary – control) in art-making and their continued relevance to contemporary creative practice.

It begins with an examination of the historical origins of chance as an acknowledged mediator (or collaborator) in the artistic process before moving on to examine the ways in which artists have incorporated chance occurrences in their work. We’ll then move on to considering the workings of chance in our own individual practices and conduct an ‘audit’ of the workings of contingency and control in our respective processes, in order to ensure that the two are functioning in a well-balanced and considered way.

We’ll also be examining the difference between chance and randomness, and exploring how ideas from physics, philosophy and art intersect and inform our understanding of these concepts. Artists and theorists who inform this workshop include William Anastasi, John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Anthony Eagle, Max Ernst, Helen Frankethaler, Eva Hesse, Margaret Iverson, Ellsworth Kelly, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Dieter Roth, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Kazuo Shiraga

Each day consists of a longer individual or collaborative practical assignment, backed up by presentations and class discussions of relevant artworks and readings, along with shorter exercises intended to bring the implications of the readings into sharper focus.  

Goals
To allow participants to gain a deeper understanding of the historic and contemporary use of chance and randomness as creative strategies

To give participants the opportunity to audit and examine the extent to which chance operations play a role in their individual practices.

To explore the creative possibilities which arise when we consciously decide to open our practice to chance or randomness.

Schedule
Tuesday
10.00  – 10.15: Course introduction, course aims, course ethos and protocols.

10.15  – 11.00: Short exercise: Reverse Beuys Sticks

11.00  – 13.00: Class presentation and discussion of readings: an overview of the historical origins and contemporary manifestations of aleatoricism, incorporating student provided examples of artists who have worked with chance or randomness. Be prepared to talk briefly about your chosen artist/artwork and your reasons for that choice.

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00 – 14.30: Working in pairs, further discuss the example of an artwork by an artist other than yourself that you feel makes use of chance or randomness as an integral part of its process and how you might further develop it by the same or a related approach, i.e. you could use chance to work on or with this artwork to make something new. Use each other as a sounding board for your ideas.

14.30 – 15.30: Begin some initial explorations of your idea, make sketches and try things out in whatever media you are working in.

15.30 – 17.00: Group discussion of initial ideas. 1 minute presentation and 4 minutes discussion/feedback of initial results. Take notes on the feedback you are given. Keep your responses brief and to the point!

Assignment: Continue to develop and refine your project in order to be ready to present it to the group on Wednesday morning.

Bring to class: an example of an artwork by an artist other than yourself that you feel makes use of chance or randomness as an integral part of its process and is also open to being further developed by the same approach, i.e. you could use chance to work on or with this artwork to make something new.

Readings to prepare:

Chance Aesthetics

http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/19/gamboni.php

Wednesday
10.00  – 10.30: Short exercise: working collaboratively on the large roll of paper on the floor draw with your eyes closed for 30 minutes. Interact with those around you who are also working in the same way and allow the chance occurrences, thoughts and sounds that surround you to inform your passage of your line across the paper. Negotiate movement through the creative and physical space without speaking as far as you can. Don’t open your eyes.

10.30  – 13.00 Presentation and discussion of assignment results.

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00 – 14.30: The Audit: working in pairs, and using the documentation of your practice which you have brought to class, take the time to examine and discuss in detail the points in your own artistic process at which there is an opening to (or openness to) chance. Similarly, investigate the points at which you exert explicit (or implicit) control over the process. How might you make this artwork more open or more consciously open to chance? Use each other as a sounding board for your ideas.

14.30 – 15.30: Begin some initial explorations of your idea, make sketches and try things out in whatever media you are working in.

15.30 – 17.00: Group discussion of initial ideas. 1 minute presentation and 4 minutes discussion/feedback of initial results. Take notes on the feedback you are given. Keep your responses brief and to the point!

Assignment: Continue to develop and refine your project on Thursday in order to be ready to present it to the group on Friday morning. The work produced should reach a level that reflects a substantial investment of time and energy on it during the day on Thursday.

Bring to class: an example of an artwork by yourself that you feel is open to being further developed by the use of chance or randomness.

Thursday

10.00  – 10.30: Short exercise: TBA

10.30  – 13.00: Presentation and discussion of assignment results.

13.00 – 14.00: Lunch

14.00 – 17.00: Class discussion of themes and issues raised during the course, preparation for workshop results and workshop results.

Required Reading
Malone, Meredith, “Chance Aesthetics” pdf
Chance: Is anything in the universe truly random?, New Scientists  pdf
Gamboni, Dario, “Stumbling Over/Upon Art”, Cabinet Magazine, Issue 19, 2005 link

Suggested Reading
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “Chance Versus Randomness”  link
Iverson, Margaret, “Chance (Documents of Contemporary Art)” link

Materials students should bring to class
An example of an artwork by an artist other than yourself that you feel makes use of chance or randomness as an integral part of its process and is also open to being further developed by the same approach, i.e. you could use chance to work on or with this artwork to make something new.

An example of an artwork by yourself that you feel is open to being further developed by the use of chance or randomness.

Keywords
chance, randomness, aleatory, aleatoricism