J a n e t M c E w a n
The Missing Tent
Presented in the Engine Room are some of the fruits of an experimental collaborative process involving twenty artists, based on the parlour game Consequences, or Exquisite Corpse. In this game texts or images are assembled collectively as each participant offers their contribution with only the tail of the previous addition to follow. Invented by The Surrealists and employed by numerous artists since as a serious tool to generate fresh imagery, this ludic practice is related to Freud’s use of free association in psychoanalysis to help bring the unconscious to the surface. French writer and poet, Andre Bréton, author of the 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, lifted the term Exquisite Corpse from the results of one of the first word experiments; 'the exquisite corpse will drink the new wine'.
Between January and August 2015, the twenty artists, who have diverse creative practices, came together to play a variation of this game; forming a network that stretched across S.W. England, from Penzance to Gloucester. The first Game of Consequences artist prepared a 2m x 2m un-stretched canvas and after working with this for 10 days, passed it to the next in line to work with for a further 10 days – and so on.
Everyone had complete freedom as to how they might work on or with the canvas. The only rule agreed upon was that no information or images should be shared before the end of the game, which would culminate in a public exposition where the final piece would be unveiled, alongside works and texts prompted by the experience, and a short film tracking the 500 mile process, produced by filmmaker Fiona Léus Lambert.
As this film reveals, the original canvas has undergone many transformations. Arguably while some of these transitions may not be evident in the Engine Room, as links in the chain of development, all are vital to the project’s conclusion. This assertion perhaps echoes a belief held by proponents of Cadavre Exquis that the finished image reflects the collective personality of the group.
A Game of Consequences certainly points to psychodynamic themes underlying aspects of creativity and social co-operation, such as; coming to terms with attachment to and loss of creative works, meeting the challenge of engaging closely with the outcome of someone else's creative process, and even mourning the lack of source material to grapple with at all.
Also tangible as the game unfolds, is how the artist, operating within a sociopolitical context, takes risks, reflects on, responds to, deconstructs and re-presents their environment.
The unveiling evening on the 4th September, was also chance for all the artists to gather and meet in person for the first time, as while the genesis and administration of this project has been carried largely by three of the artists: Stacey Guthrie, Fiona Léus Lambert and Janet McEwan, the project has been mainly resolved via the cyber network of Facebook, which has provided a platform for a non-hierarchical, consensus based structure, to serve the geographically dispersed group.
Aside from generous in-kind support from The Exchange Gallery, A Game of Consequences has been funded entirely by the participating artists. Free from the expectations of funding directives this project has offered a valuable opportunity to test individual understandings of, and gain new insights into, many of the rich possibilities of different models of collaboration, while raising questions and stimulating discourse around the complexities of authorship, ownership, autonomy and authority in a collective endeavor.
Jude Hutchen & Janet McEwan 2015
"The Missing Tent" was the title of a story written by my younger daughter when she was about 6 years old. It was indeed about a missing tent.
She has given me her permission to use the title which seemed to fit this work, developed during a collaborative project I was involved in:
"A Game of Consequences".
Spanning 9 months, with 20 artists and no fees, unsurprisingly, some of the consequences were fairly challenging, but, how important in the greater scheme of things - is arguably unknowable.
This work was developed in April 2015, against the backdrop of earthquakes in Nepal and a growing refugee crisis in Europe.
So many people without shelter. So many people without homes.
At the PV of the exhibition in The Engine Room of the Exchange Gallery, Penzance, in Sept 2015, one of the "Consequencers"-
artist Jan Phethean & I organised a paybar from which all profits were donated to local initiatives to support refugees in Calais and beyond.
Below is a text produced for the group exhibition in the Engine Room of the Exchange Gallery , Penzance, Cornwall, Sept 2015
< click here to download 2 page exhibition information leaflet.