Mungo Thomson

Why Does the Worls Exist?

April 2 - May 28, 2016

galerie frank elbaz, Paris

Mungo Thomson, view of the exhibition Why Does the World Exist?, galerie frank elbaz, paris, france, 2016
Photo: Diane Arques

« The chances that anyone has ever shuffled a pack of cards in the same way twice in the history of the world are infinitesimally small, statistically speaking. The number of possible permutations of 52 cards is ‘52 factorial’ otherwise known as 52! or 52 shriek. This is 52 times 51 times 50 . . . all the way down to one. Here's what that looks like: 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440, 883,277,824,000,000,000,000. To give you an idea of how many that is, here is how long it would take to go through every possible permutation of cards. If every star in our galaxy had a trillion planets, each with a trillion people living on them, and each of these people has a trillion packs of cards and somehow they manage to make unique shuffles 1,000 times per second, and they'd been doing that since the Big Bang, they'd only just now be starting to repeat shuffles. »


« [The world of being] is an embroidery on the canvas of the void. »

— Henri Bergson

galerie frank elbaz is pleased to announce its second exhibition by Los Angeles artist Mungo Thomson, Why Does the World Exist? Thomson's work in various media (film, sound, sculpture, photography and publication) prompts us to examine the perceptual mechanics of everyday life in relation to a wider historical and cosmic scale.

Why Does the World Exist? features three new projects generated by chance operations. Compositions is a series of digital embroideries, composed of up to one million stitches, featuring an image of a scattering of playing cards. Each Composition offers an extended meditation on a fleeting moment of random, unique incident – the odds of being one thing and not another.

Composition for Marimba is based on Thomson’s premise that one can write a score for a 52-key marimba by shuffling a deck of cards. The marimba is commonly used as background music in pharmaceutical commercials, political campaign ads and movie trailers; Composition for Marimba proposes the marimba as an endless, oceanic aural backdrop for an exhibition. An iPhone app plays every configuration of a shuffled deck of cards as a new sequence of notes on a marimba, displaying each card onscreen. Given that the number of possible arrangements in a deck of cards is an "astronomically large number" (see above), the program will not run through all the possible combinations of musical notes during the lifespan of planet earth – assuming constancy of electrical power to the work and other contingencies.

Pocket Universe is a new series of monoprints produced in collaboration with High Point Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis, USA, made by running pocket change through a lithography press under a sheet of metal embossing foil. The resulting reliefs in copper and aluminum resemble constellations or arrays of planets – Thomson also intends them to suggest castings of coins to obtain readings from The I Ching, as John Cage did to write chance-based musical compositions. The title refers to a concept in physicist Alan Guth’s inflationary theory, which postulates, among other things, the possibility of creating a universe in a lab. A pocket universe is a universe that exists within the bounds of another existing universe.

Mungo Thomson has had solo exhibitions, projects and performances at Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA; GAMeC, Bergamo, Italy; The Times Museum, Guangzhou, China; The Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, France; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, USA; and The High Line, New York, USA. Recent group exhibitions includeOrdinary Pictures at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA; In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimir Igni at Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico; and Prototypology at Gagosian Gallery, Rome, Italy. He is based in Los Angeles, USA.