in praise of exquisite corpse
Why do kids stop drawing? Why does drawing, once a part of every human’s childhood, not remain an integral part of every human adult’s life? This is of course a rhetorical question. We all know what happens. Like a lot of things, drawing stops being fun.
Because the older kids get, the more they hear all sorts of ridiculous opinions and comments about how their drawings don’t look quite right. How they could be “better.” And this effectively, permanently shuts them down; it literally stops the flow of the ink from the marker or the lead from the pencil.
It’s breathtaking, really, how quickly the process of a child’s development & facility (scribbling…to unbridled imaginative drawing…to playful drawing-as-tool-for-storytelling…to drawing-with-effort-toward-a-goal…) devolves into conformity…then stagnation…then a sense of futility…and then…nothing…nothing at all. Except a strange kind of longing.
I hear it all the time. “I can’t draw…I used to love to draw…I’m not creative…” And the sad thing is, I don’t just hear these things from adults. Kids make these finite declarations, too. A lot.
I honestly find it to be among the saddest of things.
Which is why I really believe that exquisite corpse, along with food and shelter and water, is essential. The more I use it in workshops; the more I see the floodgates open when a kid is introduced to exquisite corpse for the first time; the more I experience the absolute change in the energy of a room when all heads are bowed to the tri-folded paper in front of them; the more I see exquisite corpse in haloed light: It’s a gift from the French Surrealists, capable of saving lives by opening minds.
As a room-electrifier, as a group-coagulator, as a creative force that delights and excites, I can’t think of anything that even comes close to exquisite corpse. When you stop to think about it, there’s no mystery: It has it all. It’s fun, funny, there’s a secretive component, and there’s the great moment of unfolding for the “reveal.”
The time spent in my last ArtLab workshop creating exquisite corpses was, according to the kids, one of the best parts of the week. Looking at all of these drawings, I suppose that’s pretty clear.
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