A game of chance and handwriting. I remember playing Exquisite Corpse (the drawing version) on long car rides with friends, but it is a game that dates back farther than that. It has passed on, generation to generation. It itself truly is the exquisite corpse of our times. During the Introduction to Mythology class that I teach in spring semesters, on the first day of class I have the class divide themselves into groups of 3s and have each group create their own exquisite corpse.
Three of us – Euan Kidston, Carl Watts, and Jon Miller – gathered together one night to play a few rounds of Exquisite Corpse. Above is the PDF, the result of our communal efforts to create a rather exquisite corpse, with a few movie titles, random words, and poetic techniques as prompts.
There are two things that I observed upon revealing the Exquisite Corpses. The first: a complete disappointment upon revealing the work, as if the corpse died on arrival with no chance to resuscitate. The second, more important, observation: that given the randomness, it’s still possible to trace throughlines in the different sections. That even though – as André Breton points out – given deep conflict between aesthetics and reality, the point of conflict should be used as a starting point for a larger work (91). Breton refers to an “unstable equilibrium” which did seem to surround the three of us but, personally, I think it was more of an air of confusion. A what now feeling. Nobody had died. Throughlines were there. But I was more of the “give me that 15 minutes back” persuasion.
Bewilderment happens through chance and accident. Sense-making follows as an attempt to codify and rationalize meaning. Sense-making to find a central idea or aesthetic quality can hopefully be disregarded. Exploring a place’s synchronicity spanning multiple eras might be more important, seen below in Rick and Morty (starting at about 1:45), or seen in the graphic novel Here by Richard Macguire. So, the game’s exquisiteness is not how the game’s output is a beautiful poem, but instead how a poem that examines three or so simultaneous modes, and moods, that coexist in a singular spot.