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New Collection exhibition at IMMA

A new exhibition presenting a variety of fresh perspectives on the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s Collection opens to the public at IMMA on Thursday 11 September 2008. Exquisite Corpse comprises 17 works from the Museum’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.

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 the IMMA show.

Traditionally the game required the arrangement to result in a human figure. In the IMMA show the body “parts” are  made up of artworks, and accompanying texts, selected by the fourteen players. There are two points of entry to the exhibition, corresponding to the head and foot of the cadavre exquis.  The decision as to whether the players made their selection with a particular part of the body in mind was left to their own discretion. This freedom to respond subjectively has resulted in an extremely open interpretation of the central theme, and so the visitor moves through a conceptual “body” that is suggested by the artworks and the accompanying texts. 

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 exhibition is co-curated by Christina Kennedy and Charlotte Bonham-Carter, former Assistant Curator: Collections at IMMA. The official opening will take place at 6.00pm on Friday 19 September to coincide with Culture Night.

Talk and Screening
On Friday 19 September at 7.30pm artist and curator Mark Garry will give an informal talk in response to the curatorial themes in the exhibition and how they informed the selection of artworks in the Lecture Room at IMMA.

Also on Friday 19 September, at 9.30pm and for one evening only, IMMA will present a screening of Chien Andalou: An Andalusian Dog, a Surrealist film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali made in 1928. The screening will take place in the Lecture Room.

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

Exquisite Corpse continues until 29 March 2009. The exhibition will travel to the Ormeau Baths Gallery in Belfast in 2009 as part of IMMA National Programme.

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.30pm
except Wednesday 10.30am – 5.30pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays 12noon – 5.30pm
Late Opening: until 8.00pm on Thursday evenings until 18 September and until 11.00pm on Culture Night 19 September
Monday Closed

For further information and images please contact Monica Cullinane or Patrice Molloy at Tel: +353 1 612 9900, Email: [email protected] 

10 September 2008

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.