On a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I viewed the Surrealism Beyond Borders exhibit. It was a wonderful show, and I learned a lot about the range of the artistic movement, its philosophical beliefs, and its creative practices. One practice to which I was particularly attracted was the Cadavre Exquis, or Exquisite Cadaver.

In a Cadavre Exquis, one artist would begin by folding a paper a number of times, and composing a drawing on the top part of the paper. They would then refold the paper so that the section they had drawn on was not visible, save for the very ends of their lines, and mail it to another artist, who would continue the drawing with only the ends of the lines to guide them. They would then repeat the process of folding and passing on until the paper was completely filled.

The exhibit included examples ranging from pieces created by two artists to 30+ artists.

According to the gallery card, the exercise embodied Surrealist ideas of collaboration and accessing the subconscious, and also would “often reveal the hidden fears and desires of its makers.”

The gallery card also mentioned that the game could be played with words, although I did not see any such examples on display.

I loved the idea immediately, and promised myself I would incorporate it into my own practice. As such, I am looking for other writers to join me.

How it would work

One writer would start a story or a free write. They would write a paragraph (75-200 words). They would then email the next writer in the team only the final sentence of their piece, who would continue the story from there. The second writer would repeat the process, writing a paragraph and then sending their last sentence to the next writer, and so on.

When the piece was done, I would collate them and post them (with all the writers’ permission, of course) on this blog.

I would offer the opportunity, though by no-means require, the other writers to write brief reflection on their experience as well.

The timeframe is a bit nebulous and would depend on how many participants/teams we would end up with, but the game would likely be played some time in February.

How you can get involved

If you are interested in joining me in this endeavor, please email me by the end of January at aarubin@aarubin.com. Briefly introduce yourself, tell me what kind of writing you do, include a brief bio, and anything else you feel is relevant. While I cannot guarantee that I’ll work with everyone, I am interested in compiling multiple teams so that I can try the game from different positions in the order.

A surrealist Cadaver Exquisite

The fine print

—I cannot offer any monetary payment for participating.

—I will not publish anything hateful or bigoted.

—While I would like to give you free rein to access your subconscious, there is a limit to what I will post here in terms of graphic sex and violence.

—I will credit all of the participants appropriately, post the writers’ bios, and link to participants social media or websites.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Again, if you’re interested in participating, please email me at aarubin@aarubin.com.

The longest example on display at The Met.

3 thoughts on “The Surrealist Cadavre Exquis: A Call for Writers

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