Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Exquisite Corpse: A game of the artist

        Le Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse) is an artist's game. Our instructor told us many different things about Exquisite Corpse. He told us that, historically, Exquisite Corpse was born out of Surrealism. It is similar to a game where players create random sentences by saying random phrases and words that are chained together at the end. For instance, "Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau" (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). This phrase, of course, was where Exquisite Corpse got its name from. 

       The goal of Exquisite Corpse is for all of the participants to let to of their normal intentions, instead creating a collective subconscious that is reflected in the finished "work." Exquisite Corpse works by each artist taking turns drawing something on a surface (usually paper), and then folding that surface in a way that shows only a part of that work so that another artist can draw something else based on what the first artist drew. This process repeats until the "work" is "completed."


Andre Breton, Valentine Hugo, Greta Knutson, and Tristan Tzara, Exquisite Corpse. Ink on paper, 23.5 x 31.1 cm. 1930.
        No doubt works like these are open entirely to interpretation. I, for instance, see a bulls-eye with a pipe as a dart that's smoking feathers. The bulls-eye is connected to a snake's head which goes down to a skeletal figure with a rolling belt attached to a sneaker. A small desert scene at the bottom right completes the work. Overall, the spontaneous and ambiguous product of a collective group's minds puts Exquisite Corpse in the same realm as Dada and Surrealism, as well as some Freudian influences.

       To read more on Exquisite Corpse and see a gallery of Corpses, visit

       For an article on Freud's influences on art, visit

       For an article explaining the Dada movement, visit

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