SCULPTURE LECTURE Reading Un coup de dés
Magnus Wieland

New glimpses through old holes.

G. Ch. Lichtenberg


Do you read books through?

Samuel Johnson


Michalis Pichler’s Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira Le Hasard. Sculpture (2008) is an appropriated version of the groundbreaking typographic poem by Mallarmé, first published in the magazine Cosmopolis in 1897. Pichler’s work faithfully imitates the appearance of the famous Gallimard layout by the Nouvelle Revue Française (Nrf), which posthumously reset the poem’s typeface in 1914 as part of its series, incorporating instructions Mallarmé left behind. Pichler has replaced the categorization “Poème” with “Sculpture” on the book cover and substituted Mallarmé’s name with his own, such that he now serves as the author. This is of course tantamount to an attack on the traditional concept of originality; only this is no longer remarkable enough for anyone to feel irritated or provoked in the twenty-first century where the concept and reality of the “original copy” has long been established.[1] Indeed, such toying with appropriation has been implemented almost ad nauseum. The act of ‘dishonestly’ appropriating is further resolved in the case of Pichler where “Sculpture” figures as the main title on the title page inside the book, a title for which Pichler can legally be seen as the copyright holder without any issue.

The denotation “Sculpture” is not by chance: Pichler is a trained sculptor and the technique of subtraction defines a great number of his other works, either through stripping, reduction, removing or erasing. What distinguishes him from the usual sculptor however is that Pichler doesn’t use just any raw material for his ‘sculpture,’ but often makes use of an already canonized text. In a variation of Duchamp’s objets trouvés (found objects), he speaks of a “text[e] perdu.”[2] That is, what is stripped and thus missing is the original text (or parts of it). Here, Mallarmé’s original constellation of lines has been removed by a laser cutter. As a result, gaps with clearly visible burn marks take the place of the lines. Nonetheless, the text isn’t entirely “perdu,” it is printed not in its revolutionary constellation but transcribed as a block of text replacing the original preface by Mallarmé. This leads to a systematic separation between form (constellation) and content (text) as well as to a contamination of the withdrawn (preface) and supplementary (poem) original text in the preface.

The work Pichler has appropriated, Un Coup de Dés, does not belong to him nor is he the only one to have appropriated this work. Pichler’s idea to create three renditions of Mallarmé’s canonical poem was taken from Marcel Broodthaers, who famously blacked out the lines of the poem in 1969 for his exhibition Exposition littéraire autour de Mallarmé at the Wide White Space Gallery in Antwerp. In addition to the installation, Broodthaers printed the results onto twelve aluminum sheets as well as ninety copies on translucent paper and three hundred copies on normal paper in book form.[3] Entering this installation, Pichler also printed 90 copies on translucent paper (Isbn 978-3-86874-002-8) as well as 500 copies on normal paper (Isbn 978-3-86874-001-1).[4] Pichler took the transcription of Mallarmé’s original text as a lineated preface from Broodthaers and reprinted it with a (sadly slightly crooked) photomechanical procedure, openly divulging this loan with “Préface par M.B.”[5] This is only right since Broodthaer’s rendition contains a number of (surely involuntary) errors with respect to the original poem. Thus, for instance, “exiguïment” becomes “exigüment” in Broodthaers, the accent in “où” is missing, and, like in “irréstible / mais contenu,” words are separated that were on the same line in the original.

Pichler has used his important predecessor as a point of departure in other works as well. He has, for instance, appropriated his predecessor’s artist signature from the animation film Une seconde d'éternité (1970). In that film, one can see Broodthaers’s initials appear on a piece of paper in twenty-four frames a second. Pichler transposed the film to a ratio of eighteen frames a second, which means that the last six frames where Broodthaers completed his signature are missing. The last stroke, where an “R” would emerge from a “P,” is not captured in celluloid. As a consequence of this change of ratio, an entirely new meaning emerges that touches upon the principle of reduction. “M. P” is the incomplete signature of Marcel Broodthaers but it is also the new signature of Michalis Pichler.


What’s the difference … between a book and a text

Even if this appropriation is neither revolutionary nor provocative, it still invites us to question our notions of concepts such as “work,” “text,” “reading,” and “author.” Authorship has been generally awarded to the writer of texts but not to publishers and designers of books.[6] The proponents of Conceptual Writing have argued against this one-dimensional understanding—which exists for a reason and is why the medium “book” is often blindly equated with its textual content—and have imagined, in extremis, texts and books whose main function is not necessarily to be read.[7] Central to such postulating is the differentiation between book and text that usually isn’t deliberately made: whereas texts are written and read, books are not: “A writer, contrary to the popular opinion, does not write books. A writer writes texts.”[8] Books merely function as an “accidental container of a text” that is not bound to the medium of the book, just as books don’t necessarily have to include texts.

In light of this neglect of the material object, one could speak—following Derrida—of a logocentric conception of books whenever they are defined by their contents and not by their mediality or materiality. It is no coincidence that Derrida criticized this conventional notion of a book by delineating it into writing, print and work.[9] All three are certainly central but still facultative elements of a book. Derrida gives three reasons for this assertion: (1) “there were books both before and after the invention of printing,” (2) many works “are not necessarily books” and (3) the book is per se “not linked to a writing.”[10] In other words: books can be printed and contain works and writing—but they don’t have to. The category ‘book,’ understood as a physical object and medium, is in principle independent of the conditions, which are neither necessary nor sufficient, that merely document a logocentric, narrow definition of the book.

To put it another way, Pichler’s appropriation accomplishes what Roland Barthes (with reference to Mallarmé) calls the “physics of the book,” which presents “the book as a pure Object.”[11] From this perspective, the book isn’t merely a medium fulfilling a specific (mediating) function, but rather an intrinsically aesthetic object. The mediality of a book customarily distracts from its materiality. Referring to this, Barthes speaks of “metaphysics,”[12] that is, an appreciation of a book driven by reading and meaning that goes beyond its specific physical properties.

Michalis Pichler’s Sculpture resides somewhere between artist book, conceptual art, appropriation art and erasure poetry without entirely conforming to any of these categories. Instead, Pichler’s work marks a point of intersection, which, in reference to appropriation art, can be classified as appropriation literature.[13] This new label includes literary works that don’t merely appropriate other works in part or as quotations, but which conceptually appropriate the constitutive book object including its materiality. Without a doubt, the original object is a piece of literature; but the question arises whether the results of such an appropriation is (still, or becomes once again) literature. Put differently: considering the fact that legibility is aggravated and impaired in most cases, if not made impossible, are we merely concerned with appropriated literature or also with a literary appropriation.


Possibilities of legibility

With regards to this, Craig Dworkin speaks of a “strategic illegibility”[14] that challenges the customary and well-established conventions of reading. This is for the most part concerned with the hermeneutic “wrath of understanding”[15] that attempts to establish legibility and intelligibility at any cost, and which obstinately ignores the fact that a literary text’s potential illegibility is exactly what makes the discipline hermeneutics necessary. Illegibility (which should not be confused with the illegibleness that occurs in misprints or the deterioration of a text, for instance) isn’t simply a quality of literature, it also accommodates for the existence of hermeneutics. In other words, literary texts are considered to be illegible because, in contrast to popular fiction, they semantically challenge reading comprehension. Acknowledging this and a postmodern understanding of literature a la Paul de Man’s declaration that “illegibility” is a fundamental constituent of literature, there should be reason to consider appropriation literature and its provocation of legibility as a literary form. Nevertheless, illegibility remains in the realm of the figural for Paul de Man. In effect, he makes “literature” synonymous with the “rhetorical, figural potentiality of language,” something which unambiguously legible literary texts constantly undermine. Legibility is particularly complicated since “it is impossible to decide by grammatical or other linguistic devices” in literary texts whether a text should be read as figural or solely literal.[16] For de Man, the proposition of a literary text cannot be neatly separated from the way it was stated. Linguistic forms and content are inextricably correlated, resulting in the semantic indeterminacy of every text.

What Paul de Man ignores, however, is the material level, which itself cannot be separated from the meaning of a text. Besides the figural rhetoric of a text, there is also a typographical “rhetoric of print.”[17] Authors like Mallarmé, who are not only the writers of texts but also the designers, have always demonstrated a sensibility for the material components of writing. By disregarding linear sentence structure and engaging in typographical experiments, such writers intensify the potential illegibility on the semantic level with an aggravation of a text’s legibility on the material level. With its typographic analogy to heavenly “constellations,” it is particularly evident in Un coup de Dés that the choice of various typefaces and their positioning possess a semantic potentiality that is not only transmitted through the language but also through its visual appearance.

In the footsteps of Broodthaers, Pichler surprisingly separates the poem’s content from its striking layout by transposing it into linear text and keeping the original constellations as gaps. Even though it has a different design and is placed in another position, the mere fact that he has retained the original text word-for-word suggests that Pichler is not necessarily concerned with “strategic illegibility.” Rather, he attempts to extend the spectrum of “legibility” and to experimentally put the “conditions of possibility in reading” to the test.[18] His book introduces a number of gaps of legibility in gradual gradations and thus allows for new—optical, haptic, and auditory—ways of experiencing Mallarmé’s original text that required a multi-dimensional approach and cannot simply be read in stages like a unilateral transmission. The focus is not on the transformation of information but on its formations.


Reading Paratexts

In contrast to other appropriations Pichler has made with his own publishing house “greatest hits” (such as Max Stirner’s Der Einzige und sein Eigentum), Mallarmé’s Un Coup de dés is not fitted with an explanatory afterword that would lead the reader by the hand and orient him as to its concepts and relation to the original. This surely has to do with the fact that Mallarmé’s revolutionary Poème is much more renowned than Stirner’s social revolutionary text, and hence certain vital background knowledge can be assumed when challenging his ‘readers.’ Even the preface doesn’t assist in a reading; after all, it is just the enigmatic poem printed in a block and eschewing its typographical constellation. By doing so, it replaces the original edition’s programmatic preface, wherein the poet explains the unfamiliar typographical arrangement, and expressly indicates the significance and semantics of the white surface, the “blancs.”


Unlike Pichler, Mallarmé apparently still believed it was necessary to give precursory words of explanation for his revolutionary engagement with script. He wanted to prevent his reader from being unprepared when faced with the unusual design of his poem. In his preface, Mallarmé accentuated the novelty of his lyrical experiment and gave countless concrete clues as to how the unusual arrangement should be received and understood. This is even more astonishing since the custom of incorporating a preface became increasingly more uncommon during the course of the nineteenth century. While it was still quite normal for an author to address his public in a preface and provide information about the content and creation of his work around 1800, it gradually lost its necessity and increasingly became mere affectation.[19] In any case, prefaces were always less common in books of poems than in novels, where, especially in the beginning, central aesthetic principles of this new genre were developed and reflected on in prefaces.

Like Kafka’s famous demand that Max Brod destroy all of the works entrusted with him, Mallarmé starts his preface with a similarly contradictory statement.[20] Mallarmé also negates what he has written and judges it as being fundamentally superfluous: “I’d choose for this Note not to be read, or then for it to be forgotten once glanced at.”[21] Although the preface is there to be read, Mallarmé pleads for the liquidation of what was written. Broodthaers, and with him Pichler, blatantly take Mallarmé at his word by not printing the preface the author declared to be invalid from the first sentence. That is on the one hand entirely consistent, much more consistent than Mallarmé at least, but on the other it also steals the ambivalence from the text that offers something to be read and semantically annuls it. Then again, they play the same ambivalent game with the annulled poem that can be read elsewhere, namely, in place of the definitively annulled preface. The reason for this performative negation of the preface is hence the same reason for which Pichler wants to eschew secondary information in his appropriation: namely, the trust in the reader’s breadth of knowledge. The preface “has little to teach that goes beyond any skillful Reader’s own penetration, and may bother the naïve reader who has to look at the first words of the Poem so that the following ones—spread out as they are—lead on to the last ones with nothing new except a certain distribution of space made within the reading.”[22]



What Mallarmé mentions almost in passing in his preface is in fact the most spectacular element of his poem: the spatialization of reading which bursts the linear sequence of lines and verse open, reconfiguring the page as a two-dimensional surface. Mallarmé thus breaks with the conventions of legible typography that have constantly strove to establish an “optimization of dealing with portions of text on the white space of the page that [is] guided by the functionality of reading.”[23] Graphic design should be inconspicuous and pleasant for the eyes and barely noticeable and transparent for the content: “the ethic of typographic invisibility has prevailed throughout much of modern Western bookmaking and publishing.”[24] In their separation of form and content, Pichler and Broodthaers accelerate the break with this axiom of typographical transparency by bringing the graphic dimension more strongly to our attention, without any contentual distraction.

As a result of the bleed margin’s tetragonal contours leaving the format, size and italics of the removed text still more or less recognizable, the original layout surfaces in its negation. At the same time, however, Pichler, like Broodthaers before him, reduces Mallarmé’s complex typographical poem to a (more) legible linear form and systematically separates what necessarily belongs together in Mallarmé’s original: the text and design. In professional typographical jargon, this type of typographical design is called additive since an additional dimension of meaning arises from the specific arrangement and letters.[25] Broodthaers and Pichler, however, proceed in doing the exact opposite: they choose a subtractive typographical design.

Through this cutting procedure, Pichler’s Sculpture expands the inherited Mallarméan spatialization of writing to the third dimension. Mallarmé’s original already allows for various readings: verse-by-verse, cross-page, or skipping through the verses set in different typefaces. Thanks to Pichler’s appropriation, there is at least one path more to follow, namely, penetrating the lines and pages. In any case, the instances where the verses overlap or sometimes intersect become visible due to the cut out passages. This leads to an entirely different constellation than that of the original, where only the printed page or its reverse is visible but not at the same time. Since Pichler has cut out the verses on both sides of the page, they are both visible at the same time however the pages are turned—although the lines from the verso of the page are naturally in reverse. The lines cut out on the backside are recognizable since they have all been more strongly burnt by the laser. Based on these overlaps, the composition and typographical distribution of Mallarmé’s poem can be pursued from yet another angle: the poem can be read in superimposed layers, which occasionally allow one to see through them. At the same time, the gaps also change the shadows when flipping pages, creating a play of light and shadow that allows for the spatiality and plasticity of the poem to be perceptually experienced as a sculpture.

Thanks to this perspective, one can discover atmospheric compressions and intensities of Mallarmé’s poem, such as the proportions and spatial distribution, that would invariably remain below the threshold of perception in the original. Irrespective of the actual wording, the gaps thus provide a new entry into the famous poem as well as conveying new insights and ideally providing for a new understanding. As Pichler’s variation of the famous final line of Rilke’s poem Archaic Torso of Apollo would have it, “you must change your reading.”[26] Pichler’s appropriation of the Mallarméan torso makes the same demand. The perforated pages provoke new ways of seeing and thereby challenge traditional reading practices that are conditioned to take the material realization of the text at face value in order to receive the information as fluidly as possible. Whoever wants to understand Pichler’s Sculpture will indeed have to change his reading.


Reading Holes

The holes are a new way of scripting that can be both visually and haptically perceived. Pichler thereby radicalizes the reader’s irritation to the utmost degree. It is possible that the holes weren’t even made for human perception. Dating back to the invention of punch cards, machines are also capable of reading, namely, the same kind of hole-punched paper as in Pichler’s Sculpture. It should come as no surprise then that Pichler transposed his Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira Le Hasard. Sculpture into Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira Le Hasard. Musique (2009), by running a paper roll of the cut out verses through the barrel of a player piano. Mallarmé himself also called attention to the musical components of his poem in Un Coup de Dés’s preface. Comparing it there with a “Music as it is heard at a concert,” he understands the “blancs” as being something like “silences,” and even recommends the verses to be read “à haute voix” (in a loud voice) like in a “partition” (score).[27]

Pichler, however, doesn’t only make the words and letters intone but also the blank spaces. In Berlin’s State Institute for Music Research, he ran the perforated text through the barrel of a historic piano player (a Metrostyle Themodist, built in 1910). The work has often been presented with a piano player since then, including in Amsterdam in 2009 (Stitching perdu), in the exhibition Postscript at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver in 2012-13, as well as at the Power Plant in Toronto in 2013–14. The holes in the paper function as a punch code, a program that is congruently translated by the music box into a row of tones that would never be intentionally composed in such a manner. It can be compared to an aleatoric composition, like John Cage’s Music of Changes, where the structure of the composition is built with chance operations.[28] This work method has led to sound patterns that were of unprecedented radicality at the time. Chance notations also frequently led to a discrepancy between the score’s directions and feasibility: sometimes the score required all pedals to be used at the same time, followed by long pauses where the pianist could only wait for time to elapse. But in these moments, the environmental sounds and their acoustic accidents become an integral part of the composition, just as white space constitutes an essential element for Mallarmé’s poetry. One would expect that his Poème would sound a lot like Music of Changes. And in fact: if one were to compare Pichler’s Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira Le Hasard. Musique to the compositions of Cage, then a striking atonal contiguity could be ascertained. It almost sounds as if the player piano programmed with Mallarmé is playing a much later aleatoric piece by the American composer. Moments of silence are also employed when the white, unprinted paper is heard slipping through the barrel. The medium produces its own background noise here. From white paper emerges white noise.

The intermedial transvaluation of the cut surfaces is of particular interest. Whereas on paper they mark a clearly perceivable negative space—the absence not only of text but also of the substrate material—in the new medium the empty space becomes filled with noise if only for a transitory moment. An acoustic event resounds out of the visual hole. As an icon of absence, the empty space thus creates a presence of audible tones. They thereby steer the attention away from what was removed to what is newly created from this removal. The gaps don’t mark a space of loss but rather one of potentiality.[29]


Appropriations never come singly

Michalis Pichler is not only the creator of a Mallarmé appropriation but also a collector of such appropriations, which have conspicuously amassed since the beginning of the millennium.[30] Besides Pichler, artists such as Guido Molinari (2003), Michael Maranda (2009), Cerith Wyn Evans (2009), Eric Zboya (2011), and Jérémie Bennequin (2011) have all had a shot at Mallarmé.[31] They are all inspired by Broodthaers’s pioneering appropriation, and since each of them achieves an appropriation of the same original, accentuating a different characteristic of the original poem and signaling this with a new genre assignment—just as Broodthaers did with his Image—they are all examples of how “the same but different” can be realized.[32]

Cerith Wyn Evans, for example, physically engages with the materiality of the paper but uses perforation instead of a laser cutter. In contrast to Pichler, Wyn Evans opts for a very free form of appropriation, integrally substituting the original poem with an external quote that is punched through the white pages. Accordingly, the gaps don’t function as empty spaces but as willful incisions.

Quite different from this is Bennequin who leans more heavily on the original poem, which he attempts to ‘decompose,’ or rather, dismantle into its parts using chance operations. For this reason, he does not work with extraction like Pichler but rather with an erasural procedure: using a series of dice, the thrown numbers indicate which of the poem’s syllables are to be erased. This procedure limits the number of letters that could potentially be erased, making it impossible to erase everything. Bennequin makes chiastic use of the poem itself, loaned from its full title: “Le hasard n'abolira jamais Un coup de Dés.”[33]

Eric Zboya also applies the implicit poetic principles of the poem, although not in a deconstructive manner but rather more interpretative. This is demonstrated by his lengthy scientific essay preceding his Translations in Higher Dimensions, where he also critically refers to Pichler’s rival appropriation. He admittedly attests that the plasticity of Pichler’s Sculpture “helps to convey the higher-dimensional motifs and connotations of Mallarmés text,” but insinuates at the same time that the “negative spaces,” or rather, the “anti-space” of the incisions leads to a misunderstanding of Mallarmé’s work. In other words, Zboya claims authority of interpreting the original for himself, which he would like to come as close as possible to through a visual translation.[34] Thus, a variety of literary, methodical references—from playful deconstruction to a kind of immanent interpretation—to the original can be identified in the various appropriations.

Michael Maranda demonstrates a high degree of awareness of tradition when he, like Pichler, not only appropriates Mallarmé but also incorporates Broodthaers’s proto-appropriation by printing the preface and front matter in analog paratextual elements. Mallarmé’s original is thus fittingly kept ‘blanc’ so that an optically broken text emerges from the layers printing. The individual layers are superimposed on one another like a palimpsest, allowing for the original preface to emerge as a deleted (i.e. white) Urtext.


Presentation as framing

If one compares these appropriations, it becomes clear that Pichler aims to create a legibility of the original (albeit, defamiliarized or at least very altered) more strongly than the others. His work cannot be narrowly understood as an interpretation, a deconstruction, a translation, or a transmission of the original for future generations, but rather as a specific form of presentation—and this should be taken literally: it is a medial offering of the original that creates presence. Following Walter Seitter, “presentation” may be considered to be an “appropriate concept to characterize most general media performance” without any “metaphysical suspicions” since “presence always comes into existence through presentation.”[35] Seitter however distinguishes the presence created by the medium from the “production” that always creates something new. This general difference is applicable to appropriations that privilege the presentation of already available materials over the production of something new. In accord with Kenneth Goldsmith’s dictum: “The Old Sentence, reframed, is enough.”[36] In this respect, Pichler’s Sculpture can also be considered as a framing mechanism that allows for certain modes of reception by making certain perceptual modalities possible and by constraining or hindering others. This also shows how established categories of art can be dissolved or suspended, how the frame can attain its own status, and how art history’s long neglected parergon can now be promoted to ergon.

To speak of frames in reference to Pichler actually extends beyond the metaphorical. After all, his appropriation is a kind of frame: a paper frame with holes cut out as small windows, which, to some extent, could be placed on top of the original as “passe-partout”[37] and would thus give a prospect, a looking through, on the verses. In this sense, Pichler’s Sculpture forms a secondary frame of the original, which is why the appropriation might just as well be called a Cadre. This makes it particularly clear that Pichler’s work has less to do with an illegitimate appropriation than with a specific form of presenting the original, which is not very different than hanging a framed painting (or reproduction) on the wall. Changing the perspective suggests then that the cut surfaces have little to do with a “text[e] perdu;” rather, they’re veritable textual windows that—in their function as passe-partout and changing frames—uncover the view of the original poem. In its empty, unobtrusive surfaces that double the original’s white spots (blancs), we are concerned, furthermore, with a discrete frame, which Georg Simmel could have called for when he postulated in his famous essay that the “ancillary position of the frame” forbids endowing it with “aesthetic significance” above being an ornamental accessory.[38] Due to this arrangement, Pichler’s appropriation gradually invites us to read it in dialogue with the original, or, even more—in terms of a “double reading”[39]—to read Mallarmé’s original poem through Pichler’s frame.


Translated from the German by Shane Anderson




[1] See Gisela Fehrmann, Erika Linz, Eckhard Schumacher and Brigitte Weingart, eds., Originalkopie. Praktiken des Sekundären (Cologne: DuMont, 2004), 7, who are explicitly concerned with the “medial procedure” that “specifically focuses on the status of that which already exists, the non-authentic or derived as its subject or material”.

[2] Quote in Annette Gilbert, “Nachwort,” in Michalis Pichler, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum (Berlin, 2009), 423–39, 429.

[3] Marcel Broodthaers, Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard. Image (Antwerp, Cologne: Galerie Wide White Space, Galerie Michael Werner, 1969). Mallarmé already speaks of his poem as an “image.”

[4] That which can be ascribed to chance for Broodthaers becomes a purposeful imitation for Pichler. According to an anecdote, Broodthaers allegedly used the transparent paper only because he noticed that the black bars were visible through the white page on the normal paper. See Petra Metz, Aneignung und Relektüre. Text-Bild-Metamorphosen im Werk von Marcel Broodthaers (Munich: Schreiber, 2007), 127.

[5] Michalis Pichler, Un Coup de Dés jamais n'abolira le hasard. Sculpture (Berlin: “greatest hits”, 2008), n.p. [Préface].

[6] Roger Chartier, Lesewelten. Buch und Lektüre in der frühen Neuzeit (Frankfurt a.M., New York: Campus 1990), 12.

[7] Compare Kenneth Goldsmith, “Uncreativity as a Creative Process,” Drunken Boat. Online Journal of the Arts 5 (2002/03), online at, accessed November 9, 2014: “Imagine a book that is written with the intention not to be read. The book as object: conceptual writing; we're happy that the idea exists without ever having to open the book.”

[8] Ulises Carrión, “The New Art of Making Books,” Kontexts 6–7 (1975), repr. in Ulises Carrión – “We have won! Haven’t we?”, ed. Guy Schraenen (Amsterdam: Idea Books 1992), n.p.

[9] Jacques Derrida, “The Book to Come,” in Paper Machine (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005), 4–18, 4.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Roland Barthes, The Preparation of the Novel: Lecture Courses and Seminars at the Collège de France 1978-1979 and 1979-1980, ed. Nathalie Léger; trans. Kate Briggs (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 183.

[12] Ibid.

[13] See the catalogue Reprint. Appropriation (&) Literature, ed. Annette Gilbert (Wiesbaden: Luxbooks, 2014).

[14] Craig Dworkin, Reading the Illegible (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2003), xxiii.

[15] Jochen Hörisch, Wut des Verstehens. Zur Kritik der Hermeneutik (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1988).

[16] Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979), 10.

[17] Michael Cahn, Der Druck des Wissens. Geschichte und Medium der wissenschaftlichen Publikation (Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1991), 52.

[18] Eckhard Schuhmacher, Ironie der Unverständlichkeit (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2000), 334.

[19] Hans-Jürgen Ansorge, “Art und Funktion der Vorrede im Roman. Von der Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts bis zum Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts” (PhD diss., Universität Würzburg, 1969), 5.

[20] See Hubert Thüring, “Streichen als Moment produktiver Negativität im modernen Schreiben. Eine kulturhistorische Einordnung in Hypothesen und mit Stichproben bei Kafka und Nietzsche,” in Schreiben und Streichen. Zu einem Moment produktiver Negativität, ed. Irmgard M. Wirtz, Lucas Marco Gisi and Hubert Thüring (Göttingen: Wallstein; Zürich: Chronos, 2011), 47–70.

[21] Stéphane Mallarmé, Selected Poetry and Prose, ed. Mary Ann Caws (New York: New Directions, 1982), 105.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Herbert E. Brekle, “Typographie,” in Schrift und Schriftlichkeit. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch internationaler Forschung, ed. Hartmut Günther and Otto Ludwig (Berlin, New York: de Gruyter, 1994), 204–27, 226.

[24] See Paul C. Gutjahr and Megan L. Benton, “Reading the Invisible,” in Illuminating Letters. Typography and Literary Interpretation, ed. Paul C. Gutjahr and Megan L. Breton (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011), 1–15, 1.

[25] Edward A. Levenston, The Stuff of Literature. Physical Aspects of Texts and Their Relation to Literary Meaning (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992), 3.

[26] Michalis Pichler, Du musst Dein Lesen ändern, Gedicht(e). 44 Variationen auf ein Gedicht von Rainer Maria Rilke, unpubl. typoscript.

[27] Mallarmé, Selected Poetry and Prose, 106.

[28] Concerning this compositional procedure see John Cage, Silence. Lectures and Writings (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1961). Furthermore, John Cage’s Writings through Finnegans Wake (1973) is also a literary appropriation, where chance operations are used in the generation of mesostichs based on Joyce’s text.

[29] For Kandinsky, for example, the color white is “pregnant with possibilities” (p. 39) and he understands it as a visual corollary to “silence,” just as silence in music is on an auditory level. See Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, trans. M. T. H. Sadler (New York: Dover Publications, 1977). Kandinsky however also calls white a “non-color.” It hence represents –for Pichler as well– negation, which is necessary for something new to be created.

[30] Annette Gilbert, “Book Pirates: On a New Art of Making Books,” in Reprint. Appropriation (&) Literature, ed. Annette Gilbert (Wiesbaden: Luxbooks, 2014), 49–77, 52. This rightly points to the new medial situation that has arisen with the World Wide Web, which makes discoveries and reproductions of classical texts much easier.

[31] For an extensive characterization and contextualization of appropriation, see Magnus Wieland, “about:blank. Appropriationen des Leerraums seit Mallarmé,” in Wiederaufgelegt. Zur Appropriation von Texten und Büchern in Büchern, ed. Annette Gilbert (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2012), 193–216.

[32] Monika Schmitz-Emans, “Dasselbe, anders. Borges und die Appropriation Art,” in Wiederaufgelegt, 123–37.

[33] Jérémie Bennequin, “Observations relative à la dé-composition du poème,” in Dé-Composition 1.0 (Paris: La Bibliothèque Fantastique, 2011), n.p. [Introduction], online at, accessed November 9, 2014.

[34] Eric M. Zboya, Un Coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard. Translations in Higher Dimensions (ubu editions: Visual Writing 003 , 2011), online at, accessed November 9, 2014.

[35] Walter Seitter, Physik der Medien. Materialien, Apparate, Präsentierungen (Weimar: Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaften, 2002), 53–4. Gérard Genette has a similar take in Paratexts. Thresholds of Interpretation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 1: The function of the paratext is to make the text “present, to ensure the text’s presence in the world, its ‘reception’ and consumption in the form (nowadays, at least) of a book.”

[36] Kenneth Goldsmith, “A Week of Blogs for the Poetry Foundation,” in The Consequence of Innovation. 21st Century Poetics, ed. Craig Dworkin (New York: Roof Books, 2008), 137–50, 140.

[37] See Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 1–13. This book compares the presenting function of the passe-partout with the framing function of the preface (ibid.).

[38] Georg Simmel, Der Bilderrahmen. Ein ästhetischer Versuch, in Aufsätze und Abhandlungen 19011908, vol. 1, ed. Rüdiger Kramme, Angela Rammstedt and Ottheim Rammstedt (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1995), 101–8, 105.

[39] Annette Gilbert, “Book Pirates,” 61.