Footscray Community Arts Centre – EXQUISITE Art Documentary

Audio art documentary, documentation of visual and performing arts group exhibition at Footscray Community Arts Centre.

Influenced by the surrealists and based on the principles of cumulative assembly, EXQUISITE is a visual, performance and sound art exploration into creating a seamless, temporary and immersive work. Groups of artists from East Timor, Tibet, Indonesia and Australia collaborated in a process following the 'Exquisite Corpse' game of the Surrealists. Each group worked together over a 24-hour period, picking up from threads left by the previous group, not knowing how the works all fit together until the day of the Big Reveal.

EXQUISITE 2016 took place in Melbourne at the Footscray Community Arts Centre as part of Festival of Live Art 2016.

This is a one-hour art documentary soundwork, following me as I dip in and out of the process across the week, discovering the growing collaborative installation as it happens.

The painter Max Ernst called it mental contagion. The shared consciousness that forms when people gather and work together. Between the first and second world wars, in a chaotic and manipulated world, the Surrealists gathered, using a technique of an old parlour game, in which one would create, or write, hide what they created or wrote and pass it on. The next would create, or write, and pass it on. One result was “le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau” - "the exquisite corpse will drink the young wine.” 

The Surrealists believed that apparently random juxtapositions revealed a deeper truth and also revealed a deep connection within a community. A communal madness, shared consciousness. In our time, a time of the greatest upheaval and movement of people since the last world war, revealing connections seems to be more important than ever.

For five nights at the end of a Melbourne Summer, I travel to Footscray Community Arts Centre, on the Maribyrnong River west of Melbourne. I am a fly on the wall, during a process of collective consciousness, connective arts. But I don’t stay on the wall. I fly around, hover over the artists, recording the process as it happens, I am the fly in between the pages of the game. I see what they see, experience the moment as it happens without seeing the fullness of the work until the end, along with everyone else.

In 2016 it is the third EXQUISITE cumulative assembly. Groups of artists, some who know each other well, some who’ve only just met, have 24 hours to create a visual and performance artwork. Each group is presented with a theme, or a clue - a series of words or a concept, plus a fragment of visual art - given by the previous group. They don’t know what the group before them has done beyond this clue. They leave a clue for the next.

On the 5th March, all works are revealed in a collective performance.

Can we put this together into one message? What kind of mental contagion has this cumulative assembly achieved? As I leave the exhibition, the party is just starting. And the biggest feeling, the most contagious feeling, is joy. Pleasure in communion, in creation, which is art. And community. 

This is what Footscray Community Arts Centre does, and this is also what all of these arts groups they’ve been bringing together do - Krack Studios, SURVIVE! Garage, Ace House, The Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival, Artlife, Art Music Today - this is what these collectives are doing every day, here in Australia, in Indonesia, in Thailand, in Timor-Lest. Across the Pacific and across the world.

Footscray Community Arts Centre:
Watch the video here:…&
This is the second documentary made for FCAC's EXQUISITE exhibitions. The 2015 event: