Revive French Surrealism: Play Exquisite Corpse!
Exquisite corpse is a collection of words or images that is collectively assembled by different artists and authors. Invented by the French Surrealists in the 1920s, this type of art became a popular parlor game and demonstrates how collaboration reveals new ideas and inspirations.
Here's an activity that revives this classic game and explores Surrealist art forms. Channel the collaborative spirit with your child by learning the rules of Exquisite Corpse and creating your own unique artwork and poem or short story!
What You Need:
- Internet or library access
- 1 sheet of white 8.5" x 11" paper
- Several sheets of 8.5" x 11" lined paper
- Variety of colored pens, pencils, or crayons
- A pen or pencil
What You Do:
1. Get to know the artists and artwork.
- Visit your local library or use the Internet to look up some well-known Surrealists, such as Joan Miro, André Breton, and Marcel Duchamp. Books and websites of their work often include examples of the drawings produced by playing Exquisite Corpse.
- You can also find an online library of these illustrations here (link: http://www.exquisitecorpse.com/definition/Morgue_%5Bthe_corpses%5D.html). Note how the artists often relied on experimentation with everyday objects and rethinking common perceptions of those objects to create their work.
2. Exquisite Corpse Round One: Create your own artwork!
First, fold a blank sheet of paper in half from top to bottom. Fold it again from top to bottom, then unfold the paper to reveal four blank rows, or sections.
- Choose a type of object to draw, such as a person or animal.
- You and your child each have five minutes to draw one section of the object. Starting at the top, the first player draws in the first row, making sure to hide her work from the others. When she finishes, she should extend the lines of her drawing just slightly into the next row, fold the paper over to hide her work, and pass it to the next player. Players take turns until all of the rows are filled.
- Once the rows are full, unfold the paper and admire your collaborative artwork, taking time to discuss the similarities and differences, and how the sections of the drawing fit together as a whole.
3. Exquisite Corpse Round Two: Write your own poem or short story!
- Using the same directions as the first round, fold a sheet of lined paper into four rows.
- Decide whether you will write a poem or short story.
- Starting at the top, the first player has five minutes to write in the first row. Note: There should be enough space for a small paragraph or 4-5 lines of poetry. The player's last sentence or line of poetry should be written at the top of the next row. Fold the paper to hide all but the last line and give it to the second player. Players take turns—using as much paper as is necessary—until the short story or poem is complete.
- Read the poem or story aloud and experience the fruits of your collaboration!
Exquisite Corpse is a fun and easy game and art form that can be used as a party or on-the-go activity!