By Claudia Corrieri
I've never wanted to become familiar with Soho’s geography. So instead, I've often been taken by the hand and led by those who stealthily navigate the labyrinthine and later, spellbound and foggy, I've always enjoyed the play of feeling foreign amongst the neon-radiating hubbub. The 16mm Soho Café was a fitting venue, therefore, for the premier screening in London of the Exquisite Corpse Video Project, volume 1
, a frenetic dialogue of short films disorientatingly stitched together to compose 'corpses'. The ECVP, as they call it, was the result of cyberspace chatter amongst 37 ArtReview
network members, who all eagerly committed to the same speedy rules of creative engagement. Inspired by the classic Surrealist parlour game, whereby a quadrant of paper is marked and folded, concealing the partial drawing as secret before slipping it to the next participant, the ECVP employed the ritual of the cadavre exquis as each member created a minute’s worth of film, ten seconds of which was then sent to the next anticipating artist. Beneath the smile of speed dating theatrics, the 'realpolitik' of such collaboration seems to exist as a Surrealist subversion of the cliché, and in this case, ubiquitous social networking.
The production recipe for the work was relatively controlled by descriptive factors such as the Internet as choice of art transportation. It was the risk of chance encounter and this element of improvisation, however, which introduced sharp little electric-sparks of discursive performativity to the experiment. Snuggled into the 16-seater screening room, so fleeting were the individual clips that gurgled and splattered, they were more akin to moving stills. The most memorable of these moments were pauses of simplicity in amongst the enjoyably cross-cultural crazy. Michael Chang's addition to CORPSE#2 hushed the pace with muffled white noise of Super 8 footage, as that seemingly belonging to the cosy quiet of a womb. Filmed as if the camera was impregnated into the cave of a mother's belly, gentle sweeps of calligraphy lettered a language to her taught skin that the viewer – as foetus – was unable to decipher. Deconstructing a pictorial depth, Joy Whalen's CORPSE#3 cracked flashes of fluorescent pink across a stark projection space, literally colouring the digital surface with crumbly paint pigment. With each blink it got a little pinker, such was the magic power of the viewer as painter.
It was not the individually produced minutes that enabled the work to truly hum however, but rather the democracy of participation ensuring an edit process was relinquished, along with individual authorship. The most entertaining and self-critical corpse, perhaps accidentally then, was the sixth corpse. A really quite gross close-up of heavy petting where tongues squished together like slabs of wet meat, slipped into footage of a yellow slug meandering its way from one side of the frame to the other, to the tune of folk banjo. Likewise, but less stylistically slick, a butch animated character crashes into an otherwise romantically veiled dreamscape, and snogs one of the women. A funny reference to the faceless, dateless – you can have my artwork to play with – endeavour.
The pulsing energy of this self-organised operation was refreshing, as freed by the plurality of possibilities set in motion through collaboration, each member manages to exit a framed identity and successfully positions the work in a continual process of becoming rather than being. Together, the ECVP members envisage and successfully comment upon a further possibility of art making.