An Anecdoted Topography of Chance  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Topographie anecdotée du hasard (An Anecdoted Topography of Chance) is a 1962 art book by Daniel Spoerri with help from Robert Filliou and illustrations by Roland Topor. It is a sort of verbal "snare picture" which "documents in loving, indulgent, but never boring detail the history of every morsel of detritus situated on a table in Spoerri's Paris flat."

The English language edition of An Anecdoted Topography of Chance was further anecdoted at random by their very dear friend Emmett Williams and has been published (since 1966?) by United States publisher Something Else Press and also by Atlas Press.


In connection with a one man show of his snare-pictures at the Galerie Lawrence in Paris in 1962, Spoerri wrote his Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard (Anecdoted Topography of Chance). Spoerri was then living at the Hotel Carcassone in Paris, in room number 13 on the fifth floor. To the right of the entrance door was a table which his wife Vera had painted blue. Spoerri drew on a ‘map” the overlapping outlines of all the 80 objects that were lying on the table on October 17, 1961 at exactly 3:47 p.m. Each object was assigned a number and Spoerri wrote a brief description of each object and the memories or associations it evoked. The descriptions cross referenced other objects on the table which were related. The Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard was printed as a small pamphlet of 53 pages plus a fold out map and index and was distributed as an advertisement for the exhibit. The Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard is more than just a catalog of random objects, however; read in its entirety, it provides a coherent and compelling picture of Spoerri's travels, friends and artistic endeavors.

The Anecdoted Topography of Chance has been called “arguably the most important and entertaining 'Artist's book' of the post-war period.” In 1966, the Something Else Press in New York City published an English translation of Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard by Emmett Williams, entitled An Anecdoted Topography of Chance (Re-Anecdoted Version). Roland Topor added sketches of each object and additional annotations were added “at random” by Williams and other associates of Spoerri. A number of appendices were added to the work and a greatly expanded index. The Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard became a cult classic and was published in German translation by Dieter Roth in 1968 as Anekdoten zu einer Topographie des Zufalls. In 1990, the original French version was reprinted by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and in 1995, an expanded English version was published by the Atlas Press in London, with additional material and annotations.

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