“And besides, it’s a kind of game, a kind of game like dice. You ask what’s this? No. 15? You never or only rarely will you know what it is, because for example when you think … well here, there are twenty or so bottles, and …”
– Daniel Spoerri
Last week I finished reading Daniel Spoerri’s An Anecdoted Typography of Chance. It is a worthy addition to the series of BSRAYDEKWTDWT (as defined – by me – in this post as Books So Ridiculously Awesome You Don’t Even Know What To Do With Them). I don’t remember in what context, but I know that this book was recommended by friend and all around recommendor of awesome things, Tosh. I encourage everyone to check out the books he publishes as creator of Tam Tam Books.
In any case, the description on the back of the book will best explain how the Typography functions:
What is the Topography? Hard to explain an idea so simple yet so brilliantly executed. Following a rambling conversation with his dear friend Robert Filliou, Daniel Spoerri one day mapped the objects lying at random on the table of his room, adding a rigorously scientific decription of each. These objects subsequently evoked associations, memories, anecdotes; not only from the original author, but from his friends as well: a beguiling creation was born. Many of the principal participants of FLUXUS make an appearance (and texts by Higgins, Jouffroy, Kaprow, Restany, and Tinguely are included, among others). It is a novel of digressions in the manner of Tristram Shandy or Robbe-Grillet; it’s a game, a poem, an encyclopaedia, a cabinet of wonders: a celebration of friendship and creativity.
The map of the table-top has been reproduced as a fold-out at the back of the book.
As Spoerri writes, “Without the outline the Typography wouldn’t make any sense, and without the text the outline wouldn’t make sense.”
It’s not really a secret that I’ve long been a fan of experimental literature and the way folks like the Oulipo play with form. What I liked here was the way this single momentary unit of items functions as a portal into stories. As one object refers to another, we are chased down one rabbit hole of story to another. We twist into etymology and are thrown back to autobiography with a tube of glue or an inauspicious collection of bread crumbs. Though Spoerri’s credited as the author, the interplay between the other contributors both across translations and across time elucidates the way stories unfold unexpectedly based on the personal stances we take towards objects.
It doesn’t look like there are any cheap copies of this floating around online – I’m not really sure where or how I acquired my copy, but it is the same version as the link at the beginning of this post. In any case, I can imagine students creating their own Typographies of Chance as a useful means of telling concrete stories. I can imagine entire constellations of student typographies overlapping haphazardly and inculcating the youth in a network of authorship.