Old parlor game, art expression have been made new again

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By Stacey Manning, Managing Editor

•The red twister
twists the
hippy dancer.

•A sneaky-spooky Colleen
forgot the
promiscuous cowgirl.

•The ravenous landscape
undulates a
hairy spy.

No, I wasn’t enjoying libations when I typed those, although technically I could have been.
While the lines may appear to be a misguided attempt at poetry or haiku, they’re actually derived from an almost 100-year-old parlor game called Exquisite Corpse.
The game is said to have started with André Breton, who is credited with starting the surrealism art movement in the early 1900s.
It began as a word game where players take turns writing words in a predefined sequence, one at a time, with each word concealed from the next player.
In most settings the word order begins with an article (a, an, the), followed by an adjective, noun, verb, article, adjective, noun.
Each player writes down a word in the sequence, then folds the paper and passes it along to the next person. That person has no idea which word the person ahead of them has written down. At the end, the sentence is revealed and you end up with something, as some friends and I tried to play recently, like:

The purple ceiling
swims the
mysterious booger.

OK, so probably not our best work, but it was our first attempt. And maybe if people knew it was going to end up in the newspaper, they would have selected a different closing noun.
Or maybe not.
Being fascinated by the macabre and most things literary, I was surprised I hadn’t heard of this game sooner than I did, but I was immediately hooked. I found out about it while sorting through email messages here at work last week.
Lisa Britt, of River Twist Trading Post in Leland, sent out a message inviting the public to come to the shop on Friday night for a unique art show. Also included in the evening’s art and wine crawl were to be Sweet Nectar’s Florist and the House of Wine and Cheese. The businesses are in the Waterford Village Shoppes, right off U.S. 17.
The artwork at Friday night’s show was created by the Cape Fear Corpsers. They’re among artists who have expanded upon the original concept to include art in various mediums. Exquisite Corpse has also been adapted into a musical form.
When Exquisite Corpse is applied to art, each artist creates a portion of a collaborative piece, covers the created section, and passes it along to the next person with only a sliver of the artwork showing.
It generally starts with the first person doing the head, the next doing the torso and the next doing the legs and/or feet.
The results, which were on display at River Twist, ranged from the funny and whimsical, to more dark, thought-provoking pieces.
According to the Cape Fear Corpsers website, www.capefearcorpsers.org, the group was co-founded by Drew Craven, who has been playing the Exquisite Corpse game since he was a kid. When he found a website that encourages artists to play the game by creating digital Exquisite Corpse pieces, his interest was reignited.
In 2009, Craven made a post on CraigsList seeking interest from other artists in the area. A group got together in Wilmington for the first time in January 2010. About five members regularly get together to inspire and create.
If you missed Friday night’s debut, don’t worry. There is still a chance. The artwork will remain on display throughout July at River Twist. If you get a chance, stop by and see what you think. Maybe it will prompt you to act a little silly while being creative and inspiring your friends.
And plus, there are a lot of great things—from clothes to handmade jewelry and much more—at River Twist. It’s definitely worth the drive to Leland. If you stop in, let them know you heard about them in the Beacon.