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office of surrealist investigations

Manipulating Chance

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art spiegelman

the office is getting an office! *office may not appear as pictured

Marlowe office

You may remember this image from an earlier post that I’m too lazy to link to.OSI card The point being that the office of surrealist investigations is getting a physical office space… at least temporarily. From June 5 to July 11 of this year, the office of surrealist investigations will be open for business at Arnica Artist Run Centre. It will have 2 rooms, a main office and a funky vault space and I have a lot of goings-on planned for both spaces and projects on the go in the lead up to the opening, including a couple of projects on the go that I hope a few of you will join in on and even more of you will take part in over the duration of the exhibition. More on that in another post (likely the next post). The office space deals with a lot of things that started this blogspot in the first place. Basically, the office of surrealist investigations spawned from an interest in drawing games, particularly the exquisite corpse, and an odd book I found linking the Black Dahlia murder of the 1940s to the surrealists.

EXcorpse bookI don’t know how much truth there is to this book, but it is an interesting read, and if you have any conspiracy theorist in you (which I have very little), you may find it fascinating. If not, then you might find it humourous or crazy. I’m particularly curious about the mention of Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp’s Etant Donnes and Elizabeth Short’s corpse and the use of the corpse throughout Surreal and Dada work.  I’ll spare you the gruesome details of the Black Dahlia murder and by no means do I encourage you to watch the even more gruesomely put together movie of recent years. I will, however, encourage you to pick up James Ellroy’s book The Black DahliaPictured below is Duchamp’s Etant Donnes translated as the waterfall or the illuminating gas. I’ve seen this work in person and it is a three dimensional work viewable only through a pair of peep holes like those found in a door.

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The intrigue lies in the the instructions of Marcel Duchamp regarding this work. Etant Donnes was not unveiled to the public until 1969, a year after his death. That is the very short version for the intrigue, but it is odd how long this work was kept secret unseen until after his death. The pose recalls the pose of the Black Dahlia Murder. Theory that murder emulates ideas of exquisite corpse and dismemberment seen in earlier surrealist/dada works. Being that I have been interested in Surrealist practices such as automatism and drawing games as well as film noir, hard-boiled fiction, drawing in general, comix and narrative, these things all come together within the practices of the office. Mainly, I liked taking the idea of the exquisite corpse and turning it into a multi-authored narrative. At first, linear like the narrative corpse project I got started and borrowed from Art Spiegelman, but changes had to be made. I felt his format revealed too much and was a little too rigid and limited to one medium. Eventually I wanted to get rid of any continuity with character and make the jumps form panel to panel more open. This of course, depends on who is drawing, responding, passing it along. These are the basics of the project, and this is also the point where I want to get more people involved, so stay tuned for an upcoming post for more on this and how to get involved in the narrative.

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A Narrative Corpse: Exhibition

TitleThe Narrative Corpse posts on this blog are intended to continue indefinitely. As mentioned before it comes from the surrealist game of exquisite corpse adapted to the medium of comics and sequential narrative. I have seen different versions of the corpse game and Art Spiegelman’s The Narrative Corpse was one of them. I wanted to take this game further than simply a three panel comic and bring this idea into other media and venues. With this in mind, I brought it into the realm of exhibition at an art gallery. I have seen comics brought into the gallery before, in particular Krazy! The Delirious World of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art at the Vancouver Art Gallery a few years ago and more recently Art Spiegelman: CO-MIX: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics and Scraps also at the VAG. I had the opportunity to hear Art Spiegelman talk about the CO-MIX exhibition and he’s a little cynical about the whole idea, and if you’ve seen the Crumb documentary, it appears they share the same concerns. More on that in another post, sometime. I bring this up because I often find it problematic how comics are presented in the gallery setting. I seem to remember (couldn’t find the interview) Spiegelman speaking about his curatorial role in Krazy! as putting very unlike things together simply because of chronology or the fact that they appeared in the same comic form. The overall narrative is broken up and the pages are taken out of context. R. Crumb has received a similar treatment and it usually comes across as someone trying to validate the comic in the context of contemporary art, yet straying from what is vital to the art form. Most of you probably know Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-winning Maus by now and a considerable portion of the CO-MIX exhibition is devoted to putting up the original artwork up page by page across the gallery. No doubt comics as an art form are important, but often in terms of the larger narrative and medium. As I look at framed original comic pages on the wall I think how much better this is simply as a comic book. I’ve also seen writers put up pages of their book up in a gallery and enter the art realm, but something else is going on there that I won’t get into now. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of these exhibitions is seeing the working drawings and process, but it is a very different handling of other living artists’ retrospectives, which usually contain completed works from an artist’s career rather than excerpts with examples of the works in progress. What I wanted to do was have a comic style exhibition that played out closer to the medium of comics and stayed with the spirit of the corpse game. I wanted to get away from  simply sticking up framed comic panels on the wall and calling it art. The exhibition was painted directly to the wall continuing from where the last drawn panel left off. A Narrative Corpse eleven on this blog. Artists were given one day to finish there panels, leaving only the third panel for the next artist to continue from.

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Installment one in progress
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installment two in progress

Until finally after two weeks of installation, the gallery is transformed into a gallery-sized comic book.


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Great reception at the opening and for the run of the exhibition so far. I will post each installment individually as the A Narrative Corpse run and there is a Zine compiling all the installments so far. More details on that to come. At the end of this exhibition everything is painted over and the story continues from the last panel. From there I hope to continue in a few modes. As an ongoing paper project, explorations into other media such as animation, projection, 3d works, and into another gallery exhibition. More to come.

Narrative Corpse one

I first saw this idea as an Art Spiegelman project involving multiple cartoonists and a stick man, this game followed a chain of 3 panel comics passed artist to artist. Each artist was sent the previous artist’s panels and had to continue the story while retaining the stick man throughout the narrative.

For this version, I allowed the artist to view only the final panel from the previous artist. I wanted a more open format, so each artist could design their own panel configuration and they could do what they please as far as content. I felt this followed closer to the idea of the surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse.

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