random objectivations

In the publication random objectivations (1972), de vries helpfully reproduced one of the pages (119) in Fisher and Yates's Statistical Tables for Biological, Agricultural and Medical Research that he had used as the basis for the many works he created from the procedure of plotting random points on a given plane, each of which bears the generic title. The procedure itself he had described in detail in an article in the second issue of nul = 0 in April 1963, which also gives a summary of the various works that de vries had undertaken in the previous four years in which he had used random methods of composition.


We may, fortuitously, find them beautiful in other affective ways, of course: the configuration of elements across a plane may resemble a constellation of stars, or a scatter of dandelion seeds, or we may find visually exciting the play of unpredictable random black or colour points across the perfect order of an invisible grid. Every one of these random objectivations was made by using an arbitrarily determined procedure and resort to the random tables in Fisher and Yates. The random dots in space works of the early 1970s may thus look at first glance like a spatter of inkspots, but each dot (in reality a disc of black ink whose size is exactly determined by stencil) is carefully plotted on a series of random crossing points, set against the co-ordinates of the sheet edges, in what de vries calls 'an irregular weaving'. That a real and random spatter of blots might look like this, is, in the final order of things, no coincidence at all, any more than that the stars in the universe are where they are (or were) merely by cosmic accident.


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random objectivation, 1964

filmstill'Objektivität und Zufall', film by Gerd Winkler for TV program 'Hessenschau', Hessische Rundfunk (3 min 09) on the occasion of the exhibition 'herman de vries : objektivität und zufall' in Galerie d, Frankfurt am Main.

Click on the image to start the film!


Passage from Mel Gooding, herman de vries : chance and change (Thames and Hudson : London 2006) 29-39.

random objectivation, 1964. Squares of colored paper on board (275 × 275 mm) [Photo unknown]