daily preciousness

Friday, August 11, 2000

the exquisite corpses of my family

My family is alive. They’re safe and well, so don’t let the title of this entry frighten you. Have you ever seen an exquisite corpse? I have. It was just over a month ago on the beginning of the famed Route 66. At the beginning of that famous highway is the Art Institute of Chicago. This is where I sighted my very first exquisite corpse. It’s not a dead body.

In fact, it’s a very vivacious art form that grew out of a party game. Take a white piece of paper and fold it so that the fold lines are parallel, separating the page into the same number of guests at a party. (I suspect that 3-5 is the best range.) Each person draws a portion of a larger image. For example, the first person draws an elephant’s head (on the top of the page), being careful to draw slightly past the fold so that the next person can have some clue where to start drawing. The next artist doesn’t see the picture, only a few spare lines that go over the fold, since the first person has folded their picture back so that the second person can’t see it. Then the next person draws a portion of an image, with a slight bit of overlap with the next person, until the picture is completed. No one knows, except for a little hint, what the previous person has drawn. So it’s a delightfully random exercise. The examples of the art form that I saw at the museum were quirky, ingenious and very sexual. I may have seen one drawn at a party, partly sketched out by Salvador Dalí. Or perhaps that is just my imagination, I’m not certain. But I am certain that, upon seeing the exhibit, I immediately wanted to try my hand at creating an exquisite corpse at my next family gathering. You see, my immediate family is very creative and I knew that it would be an engaging exercise. I also knew that it might be worth it to try the same idea with a story. So my family tried it with words instead of images. A blank page and a post-it note with the character names was passed around, with only a sentence showing for the next author to springboard from. Here are the results:

The tunnel-vision story of Kublah Kahn and his marble collection

Delform found a crystal blue "thumper" – the most sought-after marble in the entire game one autumn. He had promised Dumas, his evil twin, that together they would unleash the spirit of Kublah Kahn, who was trapped inside the aquamarine sphere. Together they plotted how they would steal Delform’s mystic marble and release Kahn’s maniacal powers!

"If only Delform would have taken me to the school dance, I wouldn’t have had to steal his powers," Brikabrae lamented. Dumas quietly nodded assent, as he smelled the seskwarilla blossom.

"I will avenge him," Brikabrae continued. Dumas just continued to examine the flower.

"So where shall our quest begin? In the South Garden?"

Dumas agreed that the secret could be found in the South Garden; it was there that they would find a way to steal Delform’s power.

But Delform knew the garden well; in fact, he grew up there! Brikabrac [whose name mysteriously changed from writer to writer] didn’t have a chance – he could be considered mere clutter from now on: dust caught in a universe of sandstorms. However, Dumas thought his superior intellect would see him through.

Little did he know that Delform was a transformer. Delmar, using these powers turned into a spaceship and jettisoned into outer space where he and Brikabrac reunited. They established abase on Mars and ruled the universe happily ever after.

Exquisite corpse story #2 [untitled]

Once upon a time, Flabby Sue went up the mountainside in search of gold. Upon finding none, she found a beautiful young man named Eric Van Strong. Sadly, Eric was the betrothed bridegroom to Sue Sweety Pie. Flabby Sue was furious to find that he was promised to another. She was determined to have her way!

She turned to Sue Sweety Pie and slapped her sharply across the face. Flabby Sue shouted, "I have always loved Eric and always will." With tears streaming down her pretty pink cheeks, Sue Sweety Pie said, "what gives you the right to rule my world?"

"The right is inherent within Newton’s Fundamental Laws of motion!" boomed Eric Van Strong. "I see right through your ‘inertial balogna!’" declared Flabby Sue as she raised her feared Fist of Cholesterol. Immediately, Eric Van Strong clutched his chest and slowly knelt while witnessing Flabby’s glowing fist and wrenched face.

"Now, Sweety Pie, while he’s weak!" Grunted Flabby. "Right, Flabby Sue… Sweety Pie Power!! exclaimed Sweety Pie Sue. With her exaltation, Sweety Pie emitted a beam of energy leaving her chest and striking Van Strong in the face. Luckily, Van Strong had built up quite a tolerance for Sweety Pie's energy beams. He just laughed it off as usual. Flabby Sue looked embarrassed by the entire spectacle and tried vainly to conceal her flushed face. Van Strong took Flabby Sue by the hand and said, "Who needs a light beam emitting chest, anyway? That's so passe!" Sweety Pie laughed nervously and yelled, "This is a Christmas we won't soon forget!"

End

So, how do you like them apples? I thought they were fun. You never really know where the story is headed, from paragraph to paragraph. (Obviously, the authors don’t either!) Another interesting note is that each author has a unique tone and descriptive style. The different writing styles are indicative of the personalities of my family – Even if I’d not seen the handwriting, I would have easily identified my Mom’s playful voice, my Dad’s strong characterization and my brother’s propensity for logical, scientific discourse.

Why don’t you try to create an exquisite corpse at your next party? It’s more fun than board game or entertainment from a box. Also, you might want to visit the New Orleans-based e-zine of the same title. I’m not sure why it’s the same title, but it somehow suits it. The ‘zine is a no-holds-barred look at pop culture:

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