Anyone who has ever played cadavre exquis (or, exquisite corpse), the surrealist’s game in which one participant draws a head, covers the page, and another participant draws the body, covers the page, and so on, will realise just how surprising the resulting image can be. Imagine then what happens when four professional artists team up for a thoroughly adult version of the game.
Kudos to Emi Eu, the charismatic longstanding director of printer and papermaker, the creative workshop & gallery STPI, for her imaginative chops in persuading Rirkrit Tiravanija to cajole his friends Carsten Höller, Tobias Rehberger, and Anri Sala to help celebrate the institute’s 15th anniversary.
For both the artists and the STPI, the creative process – described as ‘a blind collaboration fuelled by pure instinct and spontaneity’ – presented unexpected challenges. Since no one knew what the other was doing and could not exert any influence on the entire piece, each was forced to abandon their usual creative control at the same time as they were liberated to bring to bear the full force of their own style and intent on their portion of the piece.
‘We were dealing with four very different artistic mentalities simultaneously, which amounts to four times the amount of experimentation and research,’ says STPI’s chief printer Eitaro Ogawa. ‘This stretched us mentally beyond the usual collaborations.’
For Tiravanja, the creative process has, by the very nature of its premise, focused on the body and the ‘different possibilities of playing with the processes of printmaking and image-making’.
In all, there are four major original collective works, alongside four to 12 individual works by each artist – a Warholian chimpanzee and typographical screen print here, and watercolour mono print, fuelled print on silkscreen, composite palm line drawing there. The pieces are, as Eu points out, free from calculated reasoning, each ‘uniquely whimsical and unabashedly nonconformist’.
Eu may well be championing our new favourite parlour game.