Neil O’Dwyer will seed this weeks writing session at CTVR HQ with the topic of Chance:
“A cast of the dice will never abolish chance” (Mallarmé, 1897)
What does the introduction of chance operations have to offer writing, research and knowledge in the 21st century? Or has the idea been thoroughly exhausted by the historical avant garde? Cybernetic systems operate on the certainty that something is or is not, one or zero, black or white… grey areas simply don’t compute.
During a period where exactness is lord over the sciences, be it microscopic examination, genetic engineering, nanotechnology or quantum calculations precision offers the possibility of total mastery over the planet, our habitable environment therein and indeed life. So why would anyone want to explore the possibilities that indeterminacy has to offer any field?
The idea of chance connotes surprise, the unknown, exposes mankind as vulnerable, weak, occupying a mere tenuous position. Reduction of margin for error is becoming more and more crucial in research as the stakes are increasingly higher and knowledge becomes conflated with life, whether it be genetic manipulation for food or cancer research, pharmaceutical research to cure disease, weather predictions which might assure safety.
In the gambling industry the ‘economy of the unknown’ was recorded to have had almost 8% expansion in 2010 to reach close to $382 billion, as reported by MarketLine. And economists predict 3% growth in the five-year period ending 2015 to total nearly $513 billion worldwide. There’s something about chance that excites and terrifies… compels humans to pursue that which is aleatory and risky, the path less traveled. Why?
As an example of how chance might augment our writing I propose to play a game of Exquisite Corpse… A game originally developed for exploring how the mystery of accident can contribute to poetry and verse. Attached is a picture, by the Surrealists, that was created using rules of the game that were adapted for drawing.