Halloween is upon us, and what better way to get in the spooky spirit than by playing our favorite Surrealist game: Exquisite Corpse.

What is Exquisite Corpse? Exquisite Corpse is a collaborative, chance-based game involving three or four players. Each player takes a turn drawing sections of a body on a sheet of paper, folded to hide each individual contribution.

The name Exquisite Corpse comes from a version in which each contributor added a word without knowing the ones that came before, resulting in the strange phrase, “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.” 

Who invented it? Exquisite Corpse was created by Surrealist artists in the 1920s to generate collaborative compositions. These Surrealists were interested in art that engaged the subconscious by using dreams as creative inspiration. One way of unlocking psychic space, according to Surrealist artist Andre Breton, was through games. Exquisite Corpse, which initially began as a writing game (basically an early version of Mad Libs), was based on free play, unpredictability and collaboration. 

Cadavre Exquis, André Breton, Jacques Hérold,
Yves Tanguy, Victor Brauner. Figure. 1934

Cadavre Exquis, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró, Max Morise,
Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky). Nude. 1926–27

How do I create an Exquisite Corpse?

  1. Take a piece of paper and fold it into three or four equal parts, depending on how many players you have.
  2. Draw or collage on the top section of the paper to create the head of an imaginary character. Use whatever materials you have around you.
  3. Fold your image back to conceal it. Extend the lines of your character’s neck over the edge of the fold so that your collaborator will know how to connect their image to yours.
  4. Pass the paper on to a friend or family member. Keep your image hidden and have them add a body to your figure in the middle section of the page.
  5. Repeat! Pass the paper to a third person, concealing the first two sections of the page, and have them add the legs. Then hide that section and pass to a fourth person to add the feet.
  6. Remember to draw lines over the fold into each new section so the following person knows where to start.
  7. Unfold the page and reveal your collaborative image.