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Exquisite Corpse at Ormeau Baths Gallery

An exhibition presenting a variety of fresh perspectives on the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s Collection opens to the public at Ormeau Baths Gallery on Friday 16 October 2009. As a publicly funded gallery, the Ormeau Baths Gallery is supported by Belfast City Council and The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, OBG are proud to be exhibiting a unique artistic concept from an international gallery such as IMMA. This exhibition marks the first occasion that IMMA’s National Programme and OBG have collaborated.

Exquisite Corpse comprises 17 works from IMMA’s Collection selected by range of people from across the Irish and international arts world. These include renowned Surrealism scholar Dawn Ades, award-winning writer Colm Tóibín, celebrated artist Michael Craig-Martin and senior Tate curator Frances Morris. The resulting exhibition features a diverse range of works, including those by Barrie Cooke, Dorothy Cross, Richard Hamilton, Rebecca Horn, Caroline McCarthy, Vik Muniz, Kathy Prendergast and many more. The exhibition will be officially opened by Christina Kennedy, Senior Curator: Head of Collections, IMMA, at 7.00pm on Thursday 15 October.

Also known today as Consequences, the game Exquisite Corpse was invented by the Surrealist poets in 1925 and derives its name from a phrase used by them:  Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau (The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine). This involved several participants creating a poem or drawing with the idea of the body as a point of departure. A crucial element was that each player was unaware of what the others had written or drawn, resulting in a sequential collage of words or images.

The game grew out of the Surrealists’ interest in developing techniques that inspired free forms of association, unfettered by aesthetic, moral, and rational considerations. This mechanism provided a strategy for drawing out content in a spontaneous, unselfconscious way to allow the creative process to come to the fore, thus broadening the range of possible meanings. One of the fascinating aspects of the game is how, despite its apparently disparate elements, underlying connections often materialise, and visitors can judge for themselves the extent to which this is also the case with this exhibition.

The process of selecting the participants has been the main curatorial input by the Museum. Eligibility relied on the participants’ having some previous experience of IMMA’s Collection. The period of deliberation was kept as brief as possible, in order to maintain the instinctive nature of the game. It was serendipitous that Dawn Ades, renowned for her scholarship in Surrealism, was by virtue of her surname also the first player and so was able to bring her particular expertise to bear at the very beginning of the process. This led to her essay on Surrealism and the Outsiders and her choice of a work by Madge Gill from the Musgrave Kinley Outsider Art Collection at IMMA. As she mentions in her text, the Surrealists were among the first to recognise the potency of Outsider art (created by those working outside established art structures) and in it the freedoms that they advocated.

The paradoxical title Exquisite Corpse itself influenced diverse choices and responses. Some works evoke the body in a visceral sense, others through abstract means, and some both at the same time, such as From the Mechanism of Meaning, 1971, by Shusaku Arakawa, chosen by Mick Wilson. Nicola Lees’ selection is a response involving the Ulysses inspired prints of Richard Hamilton from the Collection and a book installation by artist Simon Popper consisting of 120 copies of his alphabetized version of Ulysses. Artist Mark Garry’s selection plays on the ruse inherent in the game by inviting Erin Potts to choose the artwork and collaborating with Dianne De Stefano and Potts to evolve the text. The other participants are Gerald Barry, Aileen Corkery, Jonathan Carroll, Michael Craig-Martin, Deirdre Horgan, Jaki Irvine, Nicola Lees, Tony Magennis, Lisa Moran, Frances Morris and Colm Tóibín.

Commenting on the use of the Exquisite Corpse device to generate new insights into the Collection, Christina Kennedy, Head of IMMA’s Collections and the curator of the exhibition, said: “Exquisite Corpse could be seen as an elaborate, esoteric, some might say frivolous, historical model, yet it provides a unique methodology for a form of experimentation and creative experience which bypasses the exhaustive mediation of post-modernism and is a framework which allows for the possibility of the unknown, the unforeseen, the ambiguous, the open-ended”.

The central aim of the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s National Programme is to establish the Museum’s core values of excellence, inclusiveness and accessibility to contemporary art on a national level. Focusing on the Museum’s Collection, the programme facilitates offsite projects and exhibitions in a range of venues and situations throughout Ireland. IMMA aims to act as a resource at a local level through working in partnership and relying on the knowledge and concerns of the local community. Partner organisations are wide-ranging and include a variety of venues both in traditional art and non-arts spaces, allowing for far-reaching access and interaction. The National Programme is supported by the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.

The exhibition is co-curated by Christina Kennedy and Charlotte Bonham-Carter, former Assistant Curator: Collections at IMMA. The exhibition was first shown at IMMA in 2008/09. 

A fully-illustrated publication, with an introduction by Christina Kennedy and texts by all the participants, accompanies the exhibition.

Exquisite Corpse continues at Ormeau Baths Gallery until 21 November 2009.

Ormeau Baths Gallery
Ormeau Baths Gallery is a converted Victorian Bath house situated in the heart of Belfast; exhibiting international and local artists in contemporary and traditional practices.
Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Address: Ormeau Baths Gallery, 18a Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, BT2 8HS
Tel: +44 (0)289 032 1402, Email: [email protected] Web:

For more information on OBG’s education programmes and artist talks please contact Ciara Hickey on tel: 028 9032 1402 or email: [email protected]

For press information please contact Gillian Collins, Ormeau Baths Gallery, on email: [email protected]  or Monica Cullinane, Irish Museum of Modern Art, at tel: +353 1 612 9900 or email: [email protected]

5 October 2009

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.