A cafe in Paris, 1925. Suddenly, a little guy with a monocle jumps up at his table, crying “Follow me.” A “prime collection of zanies” leap to their feet, dashing out without paying for their coffee.
Out in the streets of Paris, the monocled guy—–like the Pied Piper———-leads the rest. “Solemnfaced,” they march, “executing a number of idiotic maneuvers.” All the while, they’re chanting: Dada, Dada, Dada.”
This is how the American novelist John Dos Passos remembered an evening with Tristan Tzara, the inventor of the famous surrealist game Exquisite Corpse. I mentioned Exquisite Corpse a few weeks ago, in a post about Robert Motherwell, whose early collages are still on view at the Guggenheim till January 5th.
Motherwell revived Dada in the NYC art scene in the late 1940’s, hosting Exquisite Corpse evenings with Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and others. He also wrote a book (read by a Who’s Who of ’50’s NY artists) all about Dada, the early twentieth century art movement exalting the irrational.
Exquisite Corpse can be done with words, drawing, or collage, in a group or individually. Basically, you pull words or pieces of paper out of a bag and collage them in the order received. Read Tristan Tzara’s full instructions here. That’s my heap of collage scraps at the start of this post.
I pretty much followed the rules. Except, I did cut the papers, sometimes using only a small piece. How did it feel to make fewer decisions in the process of collaging? Pretty good!
As for the results, the collage is below. What do you think?