Open for veiwing March 4th
Le Cadavre Exquis Boira Vin Nouvea
Drawings in Situ
Conceived by William Ramage
Jessica Adams . John Brodowski . Renee Bouchard . Jason Clegg . Jason Drain . James Harmon . Robert Johnson . Susan Adams . Whitney Ramage . William Ramage
April 27, 6-9 pm
Exquisite Corpse Drawings: The technique was invented by surrealists and is similar to an old parlor game called consequences in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution. Surrealism principal founder André Breton reported that it started in fun, but became playful and eventually enriching. Breton said the diversion started about 1925.
The name is derived from a phrase that resulted when Surrealists first played the game, “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (“The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.”) André Breton writes that the game developed at the residence of friends in an old house at 54 rue du Château (no longer existing). In the beginning were Yves Tanguy, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Prévert, Benjamin Péret, Pierre Reverdy, and André Breton. Other participants probably included Max Morise, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Simone Collinet, Tristan Tzara, Georges Hugnet, René Char, and Paul and Nusch Éluard.
I’ve always believed that art is purposeful in ways that are crucial to the well-being of the time and place in which we live. I am certain that one fundamental purpose of art is to bear witness. Just as it was necessary for Saint John to bear witness and experience that death and transfiguration, I feel it’s necessary for artist to bear witness today; not the circumstance, the events, or the facts, but the experience of what’s witnessed.
I’ve never demonstrated in the streets or committed an act of civil disobedience, but in 1970, I witnessed/experienced an overwhelming unrest and a turbulent transformation of a culture. I knew the Guerrilla Girls were on a roll. I saw women burning their bras and men burning their draft cards. I watched racial demonstrations, and read about freedom marchers murdered, and the brutal death of Emmitt Till. I was aware that the Black Panthers were fierce and the Black Muslims were even more aggressive in their rhetoric. The Students for a Democratic Society were bombing ROTC centers and burning down chemical plants and I felt I understood their need to do it. Teach-ins and constant impassioned demonstrations happened nationwide. An American President, a presidential candidate, and Martin Luther King were assassinated. I was present for one of the many violent riots on dozens of college and university campuses across the country; Berkley and Ohio State University were notable, but the most notable was Kent State where American soldiers killed an American student. I was not idle, I bore witness. I experienced the malaise.
So imagine, I’m 28 years old and it’s the spring of 1970. Frank, Norman (fellow professors at the university), and I are sitting in a bar while the rioting university students confront with the United States National Guard armed with rifles and bayonets. We’re in a cordoned area and have been stripped of all civil liberties. The streets are cluttered with broken glass, rocks, bricks, and teargas canisters. The OSU Campus is shut down and my friends and I are lock out of our studios. Without studios or classes, we passed the time in a bar, engaged in pithy conversations about art, shop talk, and railing about the havoc in the streets. After many hours of commiserating about the chaos, we decided to spend the time making Exquisite Corpse Drawings.
I’ve always considered the possibility that the amusing ritual of making those drawings was the means of bearing witness as riots tore at the culture of America. As we drew, the three of us were part of a prevailing culture’s death and transfiguration.
The intensity of what I’m witnessing today feels familiar. I’ve been here before. I recognize the experience of the malaise. But this time it’s not violent rage and defiance. This time it’s grief and a deep sense of loss. Framing a demand to dispel grief is elusive. You can’t redress grief by demonstrating to change this misdeed or that inequity, nor can you resolve the loss by occupying Wall Street. But taking to the streets is still critical, not to demonstrate with anger, but to give voice to the dire need to seek and cultivate hope.
A Sea of Pink Pussy Hats; a Demonstration of Hope
Today our National identity and well-being are at stake. Change is inevitable. This will be an epic struggle that needs witnessing. I think it’s time to revisit the amusing ritual of making Exquisite Corpse drawings.
Thank you to our sponsors!
Bren Alvarez, Art Shape Mammoth and Switchback Brewery
ART SHAPE MAMMOTH is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to connecting artists to new communities and supporting the development of artistic practice, dialogue, education, and research through creative public exchange.