Thursday, September 20, 2007

Exquisite Corpse Primer

So, I am home visiting friends and family and have been away from the studio and my art supplies for almost two weeks!!! But, lucky for me, I've got some crafty friends...

On Wednesday, we got together to make art! When I arrived, D, Lili and S were all busy painting on their various projects, and having no canvas of my own to start splashing paint on, I decided to start an exquisite corpse on some paper.

"What exactly is an exquisite corpse?" you may ask...

I, myself hadn't heard of an exquisite corpse until my mixed media teacher introduced it. In that class, we passed around several corpses and worked in collage out of magazines. To tell the truth, I didn't really enjoy it that much, because the selection of magazines was pitiful. However, it did introduce me to a very fun game to play with my artist friends!


Among Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystique of accident was a kind of collective collage of words or images called the cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse). Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.

The technique got its name from results obtained in initial playing, "Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau" (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). Other examples are: "The dormitory of friable little girls puts the odious box right" and "The Senegal oyster will eat the tricolor bread." These poetic fragments were felt to reveal what Nicolas Calas characterized as the "unconscious reality in the personality of the group" resulting from a process of what Ernst called "mental contagion."

At the same time, they represented the transposition of Lautréamont's classic verbal collage to a collective level, in effect fulfilling his injunction-- frequently cited in Surrealist texts--that "poetry must be made by all and not by one." It was natural that such oracular truths should be similarly sought through images, and the game was immediately adapted to drawing, producing a series of hybrids the first reproductions of which are to be found in No. 9-10 of La Révolution surrealiste (October, 1927) without identification of their creators. The game was adapted to the possibilities of drawing, and even collage, by assigning a section of a body to each player, though the Surrealist principle of metaphoric displacement led to images that only vaguely resembled the human form.

So, I folded a large piece of paper into thirds and began my "feet."
While that was going on, Yola showed up, carting supplies from the farm for bubble wandmaking and bubble solution jars. We (but mostly Lili) were all helping her get some wands made for the South Street Marketplace event that took place Wednesday evening.

After painting for awhile and finally feeling finished, I folded my feet under and handed the page off to Danika, who began working on the torso. Then I hopped over to the kitchen floor to start embellishing bubble wands.

We had an extremely productive day. Yola had a full table at the marketplace, with lots of bubble solution, bubble wands, and dishes for holding the bubble solution. And I had loads of fun being the "Bubble Girl" and making lots of bubbles. I was especially popular with the kids:)

At this point, our exquisite corpse is still missing a head. But, as soon as I find another artist interested in finishing it off, I'll post pictures.

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