The Abolition of Chance in Mallarmé and Duchamp

Wednesday December 1, 2021
5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

A lecture by Trevor Stark as part of the Joan Carlisle-Irving Lecture Series
UBC Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory

5:30 p.m., Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Room 104, Frederic Lasserre Building
6333 Memorial Road, University of British Columbia

This in-person event is free and open to the public. It will not be streamed.

COVID-19 prevention protocols will be in place, including verification of full vaccination status in the form of a vaccine passport and face coverings must be worn for the duration of the lecture. Please arrive by 5:15 p.m. to allow for verification and seating. The lecture will begin promptly at 5:30 p.m.

“In an unstable society… no stable and definitive art can be created,” the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé proclaimed in the late nineteenth century. Fallen out of sync with its time, the creation of art, Mallarmé suggested, was like casting dice into an uncertain future, a gamble on a potential public to come. This necessary but futile struggle against chance was the subject of his notorious spatial poem A throw of the Dice never will abolish Chance (1897). This talk will grapple with Mallarmé’s thinking on chance, history, and aesthetic reception. It will argue that Marcel Duchamp, in the decades following Mallarmé’s death, read the poet’s work as he confronted his own sense that communication in the present was destined to failure and that posterity was a game of chance.

Trevor Stark is Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Calgary. He received his PhD in the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University in 2016, and his research has been supported by SSHRC and fellowships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Columbia University, and the Calgary Institute for the Humanities. Stark’s writing has appeared in venues including Art History, OCTOBER, and Texte zur Kunst. His first book Total Expansion of the Letter: Avant-Garde Art and Language After Mallarmé was published in 2020 by the MIT Press as part of the OCTOBER Books series.

Image: Marcel Duchamp, Monte Carlo Bond, 1924-25.