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REGION — A parlor game called “Exquisite Corpse” is coming to the Catskills, brought to you by Ellie and Akira Ohiso, the couple behind Green Door Magazine. The Ohisos have partnered with the …
REGION — A parlor game called “Exquisite Corpse” is coming to the Catskills, brought to you by Ellie and Akira Ohiso, the couple behind Green Door Magazine. The Ohisos have partnered with the Catskill Art Society (CAS) and are calling upon the Catskills’ community of visual artists (Sullivan, Ulster, Orange and Delaware counties in New York, Wayne and Pike counties in PA) to participate in this game, turned exhibit. The finished works will be displayed in “Exquisite Corpse of The Catskills” at CAS beginning June 5.
The game consists of a piece of paper folded into thirds (a triptych). Using the same materials provided, the artists create their work on one of the thirds and pass it along to the next artist, who will only see a portion of the previous artist’s work and will go from there. Once all three artists have had their turn, the paper is unfolded to reveal their collaborative work.
The original “Exquisite Corpse” was started at the turn of the 20th century among certain Surrealist artists. “What was interesting is that it reflected each of their individual styles, even though it was done in a whimsical way,” said Ellie about these artists. The name derives from the quote, “Le cadaver exquis boira le vin nouveau,” meaning, “The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.”
To be a part of the project, submit your name to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 15. Twenty-one artists, to be paired in seven groups of three, will be chosen randomly at a public lottery at the CAS Arts Center on Saturday, April 18 at 2 p.m. “The exciting thing about the project is that we don’t know how it’s going to end,” said Akira. “It could be something very beautiful, or it may be something that may be difficult to process at first.” They joked that the exhibit may be a “complete failure” but that it’s OK, because “the original conception wasn’t meant to be beautiful, it was meant to be an artistic exercise,” Ellie said.
There are some guidelines: All names submitted must be visual artists; artists must be 18 or older; all materials will be provided (paper and ink), and works can only be created using the supplied materials, no exceptions; artists will have about a week to work on their piece once they pick up materials; and the work is not required to be a literal representation of a corpse (unless the artist so chooses).
With “Exquisite Corpse of the Catskills,” the participating artists will be challenged to work in a medium, and to collaborate with artists and styles they may not be familiar with. “It means something when [an artist] can grasp on to something artistically, because there’s a comfort and expectation of artistic style,” Ellie said of artists in the community who have specific techniques. With this project, artists may or may not adhere to their personal artistic method. “In an exhibition like this, can you still see them [the artist] in it? The answer will very likely be ‘yes,’ and more surprisingly the answer might very likely be ‘no’,” Ellie said. “And what does that mean for you as a viewer? It means your [favorite] artist has more capabilities than you might traditionally be used to seeing.”
The Ohisos feel the Elevator Gallery, the space at CAS where the exhibit will be displayed, also plays into the nature of the project. The Elevator Gallery is a new space at CAS that Akira says is “more experimental.”
Ellie and Akira remind potential participating artists that the Exquisite Corpse game is about the process, not necessarily the final product. “When you get people to engage in the art process, you don’t even have to be an artist, it’s about the process and what it does for someone. It can help in a lot of other areas in their life: collaborating and entertaining possibilities,” Akira said. “The process of art does a lot of other things besides what it shows on the wall.”
They also spoke on how place influences product. Ellie said, “We’re such an artistic community up here in the Catskills area, it’s an interesting question about what it means to be an artist defined by the place in which you produce your art.” She went on to say, “We’re entering a period where a large group of artists are going to be migrating to this area to produce and continue to produce art. And that’s what’s so exciting about the time that we’re living in up here.”