Exquisite corpses

By IAN PAIGE  |  July 18, 2007

A talk with co-curators Alex Rheault and Martha Miller:

Alex, you’ve described drawing room as having a social and literal function, expanding the notions of drawing. How does the “Metamorphosis” project fit into this mission? How did it get started?
This project brought together eighteen women, many of whom would not have agreed to work together under other circumstances, or were too far apart, physically or artistically. We were brought together, willing to have a dialogue about something we knew little about. The gamut of emotions and responses to the process reflects the diversity and variety that this space is about.

MARTHA MILLER The process came from a book called The Doll Chronicles, but when I tried this before, the rules were a little different. With this project, right away, there was a conversation: “do we simply add to this doll, do we have to follow the lead of the person before us?” or: “do we own that doll when we have it and not have to consider the work of the person before us in a way that would limit our decisions?”

Unlike a simple game of Exquisite Corpse, where you unfold the paper and everyone laughs, there’s an exploration of personal depths. Is that what you all set out to do?
MM We didn’t realize the can of worms we were opening. Problems starting popping up as we moved along. Not having clear boundaries from the beginning is also part of what makes it exciting, though. It’s like raising a child. You don’t have control. We let our children go into the world. The dolls were a similar process of acceptance.

AR Making the work, accepting the project as a commitment, seeing the work, and then agreeing to exhibit it. It was another step, not a final step but another place of inquiry, opening the investigation further. The public now gets to push the inquiry further.

That happens with the panel discussion on friday in addition to the exhibit itself. Are you expecting a resolution from that discussion in regards to the emotional friction that’s developed between artists?
AR I like the term dialogue rather than discussion. There’s no finite agreement we’re seeking. If there was a debate there would be a winner. An open dialogue will generate an opportunity for people to talk about their own experiences. We all discovered collaboration means different things to different people.

How did the journals accompanying each doll function?
They were a great source of confusion for all of us. Some thought they were guidelines that were explicit in nature. Some groups had a desire to talk about everything: “I found this great fabric” or “I had a dream because of the doll.” Many people used it as a diary. It was never dictated.

One of the things that happened with my group was people would tell a story and create an identity for the doll and that set up a dilemma for people who wanted to deviate and create something new. In that way the journals set up this issue of “honoring” the dolls, and what “honoring” means. That’s where things got murky and the journals really reflect it.

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Alex Rheault
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