Chance

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“The law of chance, can be experienced only in a total surrender to the unconscious." —Jean Arp

Beginning largely with the Dada movement in the late 1910s, Western artists have incorporated elements of chance in the creation and presentation of their work. This development is thought to have been inspired by a loss of faith in ordered Western civilization in the wake of World War I, as well by the development of relativist principles in fields ranging from quantum physics to psychology to Eastern philosophy. Jean Arp composed collages by dropping shapes at random while Marcel Duchamp recorded the patterns formed by dropped strings; both diminished the status of the artist's conscious decisions in creating an artwork. Explorations of chance and the potential of the unconscious were central to both Surrealism as well artists of later generations, like the Abstract Expressionists. Ellsworth Kelly, for one, is well-known for choosing the colors for his grid paintings by rolling dice. The 1960s Happenings associated with Fluxus and others introduced a new element of chance into art-making, with John Cage famously using flipped coins as a means of composing musical scores.

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