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  • Writer's pictureL'équipe du MAJ

Announcement of theme 31 – Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse: this visual and literary game has slipped into everyday language. The first participant begins the drawing, then folds the sheet of paper in order to hide everything but the few lines to which the next participant will connect their contribution, and on it goes. On the literary side, the same method is used for the ends of sentences. The outcome is what is called an exquisite corpse (or cadavre exquis). The exercise, which originated in the surrealist art movement, creates chance connections, surprising shifts, and uncanny familiarities that liberate words and images of their meanings. Furthermore, the encounter that makes the exquisite corpse possible can potentially help us to see hitherto unknown facets of ourselves, illuminated by the other’s gaze.

Constellation, des Impatients, views of the exhibition at the Musée d'art de Joliette, 2021. Photos : Romain Guilbault

André Breton, the artist and writer known as the father of Surrealism, was part of the group that, in 1925, created the first long series of exquisite corpses: Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau (“the exquisite corpse will drink the new wine”).

“Indeed, what had excited us in these productions is the certainty that, come what may, they bear the mark of what cannot be engendered by a single brain and that they are endowed, to the highest degree, with a power of drift that poetry cannot value too highly. With the Exquisite Corpse, we had at our disposal—at last—an infallible means of sending the mind’s critical mechanism away on vacation and fully releasing its metaphorical potentialities.” (André Breton, “The Exquisite Corpse, Its Exaltation” (1948), in André Breton, Surrealism and Painting, translated by Simon Watson Taylor, London 1965, 288-90 and free translation).

Constellation, des Impatients, vviews of the exhibition at the Musée d'art de Joliette, 2021. Photos : Romain Guilbault

December’s theme at Quarantined Museum was inspired by the Impatients collection exhibition, Constellations, on show at the Musée until next January 9. Les Impatients is an organization with a mission to help those having mental health problems through artistic expression. As explained in the text proposed by the Education department this month, the Impatients (i.e., the impatient ones) are called as such “because they are not considered as patients, but as creators who are impatient to heal, to develop their art, and to find a role in society when they will be well again.” The organization collects art works produced by participants in workshops held throughout Quebec. The exhibition also includes a collective work to which the public is invited to contribute, highlighting the importance of community where issues of mental health are concerned.

Constellation, des Impatients, views of the exhibition at the Musée d'art de Joliette, 2021. Photos: Romain Guilbault

👉In the present call to creation, we invite you to consider the exquisite corpse in all its dimensions, both textual and visual. Are you familiar with some surrealist writers or with surrealist paintings? What is your favorite surrealist work? What effect does the juxtaposition of elements have on you? Embarrassment? Wonder? Disdain? Incomprehension? Does art teach you things about yourself? Do you do collective creation? Why not explore these ideas with a pen pal? Try texting with old fiends that you haven’t seen very often. Or your children, your parents. Via drawing, or photomontage. Have fun creating a story by blindly juxtaposing images or words—or both—drawn from various sources.

Keep an eye out on the blog for proposed content throughout the month of December.

  • As always, the Education department is setting up “family special” activities for you!

  • The blog has several other surprises in store, including an invitation to participate in an exquisite corpse by correspondence!

Happy creation !

This article was written by Charlotte Lalou Rousseau, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, Musée d'art de Joliette.


You have until Friday, December 31, noon, to send us creative contributions inspired by this month’s theme. The exhibition will be online, Thursday, January 6, 2022.

Click here to learn how to participate.

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