The Exquisite Corpse – Behind the Design of Volume 54

The Exquisite Corpse started off as a parlor game invented and widely used by poets and artists during the Surrealist movement. Surrealists loved Exquisite Corpse because they thought it helped them break free from the constraints of consciousness, and the name came from one of the first phrases created using the technique: “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouvea”, or, “the exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.” Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Max Morise, and Man Ray, created this version of the Exquisite Corpse, in 1927.

The game originally started off being played with words, but over time artists started drawing and sometimes even collaging using this method. The game is played by breaking down a poem or painting into several parts, each player finishes one part without any knowledge of the rest. As the game concludes, all the components are pieced together and you end up with a wildly quirky phrase or drawing that’s unlikely to be created otherwise.

The first game was played at 54 rue du Chateau, which is where the Volume 54 got its number. When the Volume 54 was designed, the pencil was separated into 5 parts: graphite, barrel, ferrule, imprint, and eraser. The team sat down, and each one of us designed one element of the pencil. The video shows the full design process of the Volume 54.



Image 1: Nude by Tanguy, Joan Miró, Max Morise, Man Ray. Source.