Brain Pickings

The Exquisite Book: 100 Artists Play a Collaborative Game

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Conceptual horizons, or why the time to judge a book by its cover may have just arrived.

In the 1920s, a collective of Surrealists invented exquisite corpse, a game-like collaborative creation process wherein each contributor tacks on to a composition either by following a strict rule or by being only shown what the last person has contributed. Now, Brooklyn-based designers Julia Rothman, Jenny Volvovski and Matt Lamothe have replicated the exquisite corpse idea in a brilliant collaborative illustration project that enlisted 100 of today’s most talented artist and designers to co-create a book by building on each other’s work. Today, the project comes to life as The Exquisite Book: 100 Artists Play a Collaborative Game — an absolutely remarkable tome nearly two years in the making.

Here’s how it works: Each artist contributed one page to the book. The first five were given a few starter words to inspire their drawing, then each of the following artists only saw the page that immediately preceded theirs and used images to build on the story. Besides this conceptual continuity, a more visual one — a horizontal line that starts on the left side of the page and ends on the right — drew the images together. Artsts were free to interpret the line ever which way they liked, which most did with incredible ingenuity.

The project is an instant piece of creative culture history, from the illustrated introduction by McSweeney’s Dave Eggers of 826 Valencia and Where The Wild Things Are fame, to the meticulous making of its cover, to the all-star roster of contributing artists. (Including many we’ve raved about previously — Lisa Congdon, Luke Ramsey, Meg Hunt and many, many more.)

Sample some of the goodness, then do yourself a favor and grab a copy of The Exquisite Book: 100 Artists Play a Collaborative Game — we haven’t been this excited about an extracurricular art book since Pixar’s The Ancient Book of Sex & Science.

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