Exhibit inspired by I Ching Method

"Chance Operations, Random Access" is on display in the Millard Sheets Library. The format was inspired by artist John Cage's traveling exhibition “Rolywholyover: A Circus.”

LMU’s semester-long exhibit “Tapping the Third Realm” goes beyond this campus. “Chance Operations, Random Access,” a library exhibit at Otis College of Art and Design, on display now until Dec. 8, is the result of a collaboration between both schools.

Back in 1989, esteemed visual artist and composer John Cage was asked to compose a piece of work that reflected his own life. Cage instead created an exhibit-like program that displayed a wide range of mediums. Art, videos, installations and music all interchanged randomly throughout the exhibit on any given day, almost like a circus of art. The show went on tour around the country with the name “Rolywholyover: A Circus.”

Inside the doors of the Millard Sheets Library, guests will find a glass case enclosing 15 different pieces of art. Audiences cannot touch or interact with the art or texts, but an information guide reveals exactly what can be found inside. There are sketches, books, stamps and photography, each having absolutely no relation to the other.

Ironically, the randomness of the exhibit is thoroughly calculated. Every piece has come from either the Otis Artists’ Book Collection, circulated library books or from the Otis Laboratory Press collection. All the works were compiled into a list totaling 2,304 items. According to the exhibit information, the list is divided into 64 segments of 36 items and then subsequently divided into six lines of six items each. Guests are not told how often the works will be changed, contributing to the theme of unpredictability. 

Otis librarian Cathy Chambers was inspired to recreate Cage’s idea of randomness from “Circus” through the method of the “I Ching,” or “Book of Changes,” an ancient Chinese text. The book is extremely dense, but the idea of “I Ching” prevents readers--or in this case art goers-- from falling into a cycle of simply fulfilling expectations. The goal is that random works of art will cause audiences to ask different, unexpected questions in the hopes of achieving a deeper philosophical understanding. 

The “Chance Operations, Random Access” collection is a smaller segment of the larger exhibit, “Tapping the Third Realm,” which similarly explores ideas of self-discovery and even spirituality within the creative process. Various programs and series will display different pieces of art on each campus. “Tapping the Third Realm” is also on display until Dec. 8 at both Otis’ Ben Maltz Gallery and LMU’s Laband Art Gallery.

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