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Michalis Pichler


Instrument: Pianola Metrostyle Themodist
The Aeolian Company, NY 1910
Location: Musikinstrumenten-Museum Berlin
Staatliches Institut für Musikforschung Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Camera & sound engineering: Michael Otto
Sound assistance: Misaki Kawabe, Nick Thurston

All the text of Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem of the same name is cut out and played on an automatic piano. The music piece is based on a book by Michalis Pichler published 2008 in Berlin with the title Un Coup De Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hazard (Sculpture) It is a close copy of the 1914 edition of the French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem of the same name, but with all the words cut out by laser, in a way that corresponds directly to the typographic layout used by Mallarmé to articulate the text*.

A Preface features the entire poem written as a block of text with each line separated by a slash (/). This block-transcription of the Mallarme-Text was carried out in 1969 by Marcel Broodthaers.

12 double spreads follow, with immaculately cut out windows standing in for the text. When turning the pages, numerous shadows are being generated by the cutouts.

The work is soft bound and feels quite insubstantial. The cover is a facsimile of the original cover as published in 1914 by Librairie Gallimard, with the word ‘Sculpture’ replacing ‘Poeme’ (or ‘Image’) in the centre of the design.
500 copies are produced on paper, 90 on translucent paper and 10 on acrylic glass plates.

“Michalis Pichler’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard is a work of great piracy. Stealing from Broodthaers who stole from Mallarmé, Picher pinches text and context, unfreezing the shipwreck, melting those thin divisions between image and referent, author and authority. In this, Pichler’s real coup lies in proving how erasure proves that nothing cannot be removed.” –Vanessa Place

A version of the book can be played on an automatic piano, here on a Pianola Metrostyle Themodist, The Aeolian Company, NY 1910.

Historical note:

* Mallarmé had written the poem in 1897, also saw it published in a magazine called Cosmopolis, but left copious notes as to how it should be typeset, instructions that were finally carried out 16 years after his death, in 1914.
In 1969 this work was appropriated by notorious Marcel Broodthaers, who replaced the words by black stripes. He replaced the classification Poeme on the cover by the word Image.

Stéphane Mallarmé, Un Coup De Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hazard (Poeme), 1897/1914.
Marcel Broodthaers, Un Coup De Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hazard (Image), 1969.
Michalis Pichler, Un Coup De Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hazard (Sculpture), 2008.