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  • Writer's pictureGina Greenlee, Author

Steampunk Chicken: Opening the Mind with Surrealist Art

Artwork by Gina Greenlee

Exquisite Corpse is a collaborative game that traces its roots to the 1920s Parisian Surrealist Movement. Usually played by several people, each participant takes turns writing or drawing on a sheet of paper, folding it to conceal his or her contribution, and then passing it to the next player for a further contribution.

Steampunk Chicken exquisite corpse collage by Gina Greenlee

The writing version of this game came descends from an old parlor game called Consequences, in which players took turns writing phrases that eventually formed an absurd story. The word game Mad Libs, invented in 1953, is a modern iteration of Consequences. The visual version of the game acquired its name from a sentence that emerged during a round of Consequences among the early surrealists: “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.”

Gina Greenlee Artwork

In a 2018 article, Exquisite Corpse, the Surrealist Drawing Game That Just Won’t Die, Alexxa Gotthardt writes, “…many of the game’s devotees used it to experiment with styles or modes of representation that pushed them beyond their own day-to-day practices. In particular, they were enamored with the exercise’s inherent spontaneity and dependence on chance.”

Lucky exquisite corpse collage by Gina Greenlee

Andre Breton, French writer and poet best known as the co-founder and chief theorist of Surrealism, believed that one way of unlocking psychic space was through games. He and his cohort were constantly inventing them as a way to create art that engaged the unconscious.

Gina Greenlee Artwork

For Breton and his followers, Exquisite Corpse opened up new avenues of creativity by tapping into many of Surrealism’s essential tenets: unpredictability, collaboration and free play – a disruption of the waking mind’s penchant for order.

Continues Gotthardt: “As Surrealist poet Simone Kahn, an early adopter of the game, remembered in a 1975 essay, ‘We were at once recipients of and contributors to the joy of witnessing the sudden appearance of creatures none of us had foreseen, but which we ourselves had nonetheless created.’”

Rotary Mermaid exquisite corpse collage, by Gina Greenlee

Gina Greenlee Artwork

In Exquisite Corpse, players certainly didn’t have to stick to traditional representations of the body as you can see from my solo collages, including Rotary Mermaid and Bibliobike.

Bibliobike exquisite corpse collage by Gina Greenlee

Gina Greenlee Artwork

Gina Greenlee Artwork

Gina Greenlee Artwork

Poster Collage By D*Face

I love this expression of Exquisite Corpse using just the head, by U.K. multimedia street artist Dean Stockton, better known by his alias, D*Face.

Poster collage by D*Face.

There are innumerable templates on the Internet for creating Exquisite Corpse. I like this one from Drydenart because it’s simple and straightforward. This leaves more brain space to play with the possibilities. Draw, cut up images from old magazines or use royalty-free photos from and let your imagination run free.

Exquisite Corpse Artwork

For those who love to play with the concept without creating original artwork, try the book, All Mixed Up in which readers can create more than 13,000 quirky characters by flipping the cut pages.

Go ‘head. Blow your own mind.


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