The Radical Use of Chance in Twentieth Century Art

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  • and geography, is the lack of distinction

    Jones makes between space and place. This

    may have been a conscious decision on the

    authors part, but no rationale is given for it,

    and it would have been helpful to have an

    understanding of why these terms are not

    considered separately.

    Nevertheless, this book has much to

    commend it, and makes some valid points

    as to the importanceof the spatial in relation

    to identity and cultural production. Chap-

    ter Threes study of the spatialities of AIDS

    as figured within Guiberts work makes

    some particularly interesting remarks on

    the body, space and the gaze. If the

    construction of home is rather lost sight

    of in this chapter, it is recovered in the

    following one, which carries out an

    engaging reading of the significance of the

    mother and the mere-patrie within Dou-

    brovskys autofictions. Here, being caught

    primarily between two languages, as well as

    between two spaces (France and the US),

    contributes to what Jones describes as

    Doubrovskys divided identity (206), and

    to his autofictional double (215) inhabit-

    ing an in-between, or entre-deux (215)

    that the author attributes to his Jewishness.

    This is apredicament also found in thework

    of Robin, and Joness treatment of this

    writer highlights the sense of not-belong-

    ing (227) that informs this writers literary

    texts, before going on to analyse someof the

    strategies deployed to negotiate this.All in all, this is a promising first book

    that combines close readings with

    theoretical analysis from an interdisci-

    plinary perspective.


    Keele University

    q 2012 Ceri Morgan

    The Radical Use of Chance in TwentiethCentury ArtD. LEJEUNEAmsterdam and New York, Rodopi, 2012275 pages, 55.00 e, ISBN 978 9042034396

    Un Coup de des jamais nabolira le

    hasard: Mallarmes renowned poem with

    its enigmatic title is often cited but, it

    would seem, barely understood. Likewise,

    Bretons objective chance. Chance in all its

    possible forms is scrutinised by Lejeune in

    this book, held up to the lens of the

    philosopher Clement Rosset and con-

    sidered in opposition or relation to such

    ideas (amongst others) as Artificialism

    and Naturalism, objectivity and subjectiv-

    ity, certainty and uncertainty, optimism

    and pessimism, stability, fixity and

    absurdity. Through a careful (if slightly

    dry) opening discussion of the nature and

    meaning of chance in scientific, philoso-

    phical and religious terms, Lejeune arrives

    at a point where he can begin to unpack

    the presence of chance in the work of

    Andre Breton, Francois Morellet and

    John Cage in turn, in an informed and

    subtle manner.

    The three figures are chosen to give a

    broad perspective on the use of chance in

    the arts, Breton standing for literature,

    Morellet for visual art and Cage for music.

    The inclusion of the lesser-known

    Morellet alongside two avant-garde giants

    is a brave choice, and seems to reflect a

    personal research interestLejeune has

    met both Morellet and Rosset, his chosen

    philosopher for the project, and he

    includes interviews with both as an

    appendix. The actual links between Rosset

    and Morellet are tighter than those

    between Rosset and either Breton or

    Cage, and the informed reader should not

    386 Book Reviews

  • expect to learnmuchnew about the author

    or composer. Nonetheless, they are exam-

    ined in relation to a highly pertinent theme

    and the contextualisation of Rosset and

    Morellet is useful, surely serving to provide

    a more sustained analysis of the two

    figures work than has previously been

    undertaken.Lejeune considers the use of chance as

    both technique and theme, demonstrat-

    ing the ways in which, for Breton,

    chance comes to be merely a means of

    invention that can contribute to the

    broader project of Surrealism. For

    Morellet and Cage, on the other hand,

    chance is a subject and system in and of

    itself, a way of sustaining invention and

    using the various elements involved in

    the exhibition of an artwork or the

    performance of a composition (artist/

    composer, venue/performer, audience

    and instruments) as uncontrolled vari-

    ables in order to avoid fixity. The

    primary difference between Morellet

    and Cage, Lejeune concludes, is that

    Morellet is an Artificialist and Cage a

    Naturalistlabels that he takes to prove,

    challenging Rosset, that either perspec-

    tive can lead to a radical use of chance.

    The use by Morellet of mathematical

    notions of infinity and by Cage of Asian

    philosophy to subtly different ends is

    fascinating, and almost as much can be

    learned here about the potential of

    different media to incorporate chance

    as it can about the motivations of the

    books protagonists.

    Lejeunes English suffers from a slightly

    awkward turn of phrase that, combined

    with the complex philosophies at play,

    makes the book denser and harder to

    read than it might otherwise be; however

    this is on the whole a valuable and

    intelligent contribution to the field.


    The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

    q 2012 Caroline Levitt

    The Anticipation Novelists of 1950s FrenchScience Fiction: Stepchildren of VoltaireBRADFORD LYAU (Ed.)Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Co., 2011238 pages, $55.00, ISBN 978 0786458578

    Bradford Lyaus study focuses on the

    work of 11 authors whose novels appeared

    in the Anticipation science fiction series

    publishedby theFrenchpressFleuveNoir in

    the 1950s. Lyau divides these authors and

    their works into categories (moderate,

    extremist, conservative, radical) based on

    his assessment of their perspectives on

    scientific and technological progress. Inter-

    ested in the different views of modernity

    andmodernisation he reads in these novels,

    Lyau is also concerned here with tracing an

    intellectual and literary history of French

    science fiction in relationship to both

    contemporary American influences and a

    French literary tradition reaching back to

    the Enlightenment.In his first chapter, Lyau provides

    readers with a broad introduction to the

    issues and challenges that shaped the

    immediate postwar landscape in France:

    a pervasive cultural fearof decline; political

    division between left, right, and centre in

    the wake of wartime occupation and

    resistance; technological and economic

    modernisation; American political, econ-

    omic, and cultural influence; and an

    expansion of French popular culture that

    included a paperback revolution in

    Book Reviews 387