Edward Austin Hall, Exquisite Corpse, (Head) 2021
Introduction to the Issue
The Exquisite Corpse
Although we all hope to return to life as it was before the Covid pandemic, this is still a difficult moment. We have all learned to zoom and attend lectures, performances and exhibitions online. Communication is different than it was, and artists and writers have adapted.
The Art Section presents a special issue for which visual artists from around the globe were invited to join together virtually to play the surrealist game The Exquisite Corpse. This game was created first as a way to make poetry collectively. It was adapted by artists Yves Tanguy, Jacques Prévert, André Breton and Marcel Duchamp to create a visual version of this way of collaborating without knowing what the other artists have done. The game started in Paris in 1925 with the phrase “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau” (“The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine”).
I invited 28 visual artists to participate in a digital version of The Exquisite Corpse. Instead of covering or folding the paper, each artist was assigned to make an image of a body part (head, torso or legs and feet). The parts were assembled digitally and are presented here as nine complete bodies, each as delightful and surprising as the next.
Matthew Ostrowski is a digital musician. At the beginning of the pandemic, he performed a series of experimental music concerts with musicians from around the world. At first, I thought this was a kind of musical version of the corpse game but I was mistaken--it was an improvisational performance in which the musicians attended closely to what each one was playing; it was based on responsive collaboration rather than chance juxtaposition. Ostrowski told me, however, that he had recorded a musical version of the exquisite corpse in 1987 with a group of 22 musicians. The vinyl LP was recorded at Noise NY, P.S. 122, and on Guy's answering machine. It was sequenced at Tom 'n Andy Studios. Much like the visual artists who participated in TAS’s exquisite corpse game, the musicians were never in the same room at the same time. Ostrowski writes about this work and its relation to John Cage and Surrealism, and TAS presents sample tracks for you to listen to.
Also included in this issue are nine poems by nine different poets about the body, curated by poet Opal Moore. These poets have generously lent TAS their poems and also have read them so the reader can hear the poems in the poets’ own voices. This is indeed the body exquisite: words to be heard and savored, body parts drawn, photographed and painted by the visual artists, and the music filling the void.
Come drink the new wine,
Editor in Chief
The Art Section
Deanna Sirlin is an artist and writer from Brooklyn, New York currently living and working outside of Atlanta, Georgia.