by Angeliska on May 5, 2011
I did an interview with William Bass of Uweekly Austin about Exquisite Corpse recently,
but I thought it might be good to post our full interview here, since I was able to go a lot more
in depth about what my vision for the night is all about, where it comes from, and what I’m hoping
to make happen with it. To accompany, are some of Devaki Knowles’ wonderful photos from the last party –
the full set can be seen here: Exquisite Corpse 2
1.What is Exquisite Corpse all about?
Exquisite Corpse is a night for modern surrealists and old-school goths to dance, socialize and explore.
We take pleasure in creating an elegant temporary autonomous zone where ideas and flirtations can be exchanged.
The name refers to the Surrealist parlour game, (which we always play at the party) and is meant to evoke the gothic
style of dressing beautifully undead. It’s also a reference to a fascinating book by Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss,
which draws connections between the Surrealists and the famous Black Dahlia Murder. Film noir, ghastly crimes, bizarre art,
and a penchant for the macabre all lend themselves well to the theme.
2. What inspired you to create this event?
When I lived in New Orleans, my friends and I decided to start a monthly Dada Ball called Cabaret Revoltaire.
We saw it as a continuation of the movements begun by our disgruntled European forbears – their movement also
came about as a response to the insanity and futility of war and industrialized culture. In post-9/11 America, we
watched with horror the knee-jerk patriotism that presaged the war in Iraq, and knew we needed an outlet for our
feelings of helplessness and frustration. Cabaret Revoltaire was an experimental surrealist extravaganza, a combination
of art opening and intentionally chaotic salon featuring visual and performance art, experimental music and installation,
pranks, invisible theater, inexplicable fashion, participatory painting, and interactive hijinks of all sorts. Inspired by the Dada,
Surrealist and Situationist movements, our goals were to revive and expand on the good work of the artists and writers that
came before us, to achieve consciousness expansion, to engage collaborative art, interactive (rather than passive) social
experiments, full-contact participation and the abolition of the “audience”.
3. What is your interest in surrealism, and what is its connection to this event?
I’ve long held a great respect and fondness for the work of the Surrealists and Symbolists.
These artists were delving deep into the human subconscious, and were determined to unearth
and express our strangest dreams, no matter how dark or nonsensical they might seem. They
understood that the most profound wisdom can come from these hidden places.
Davey + Penny
Teddy Baker & pal
4. What sort of experiences is Exquisite Corpse trying to engender?
Mainly, we just want people to come and have a lovely time. This event is sort of a low-key continuation
of those giant Dada parties we did back in NOLA, with a healthy helping of darkness and mystery thrown in.
I want people to feel free to participate, and be involved in creating the atmosphere. The concept is basically this:
imagine if David Lynch had a Goth night in the Black Lodge. Except that it’s at the Swan Dive, which is even more
magical, really. It’s such a special venue, and we’re so excited to be doing Exquisite Corpse there – I can’t really
imagine it working anywhere else. The music, and the whole gothic aspect was really thrown in as a mash-up,
because I’ve been wanting to do both nights for a long time, and it seemed like it might work to just toss them in together.
I’ve felt a real lack of the kind of goth/new-wave night like the kind I used to love going to back in the day. That scene kind
of died or faded away, but I feel like the time is ripe to bring it back, and play the kind of music we never really get to here
in clubs anymore. The focus is really on a specific pantheon and era of bands that created a sound that was dark, mysterious
and magical. It was before industrial music and EBM took over, with a much more aggressive, stompy, masculine vibe.
I do enjoy many aspects of that music, but there are also plenty of great nights where you can hear that stuff.
“Music for Witches” does indicate a more feminine leaning, an appreciation for mysticism, dramatics, and romance.
The music has a different tempo – it’s a slower, heavier beat. It’s sexy without being super aggro. It also creates a space
for new music that works beautifully with our theme, like witch-house and drag. Musicians like Karin Dreijer Andersson of
Fever Ray and The Knife, and the mysterious IAMAMIWHOAMI definitely have a place at Exquisite Corpse – they are
both doing really gorgeous and adventurous work. This isn’t a rigid retro night – it’s about creating a certain ambiance,
which might include a Nina Simone song played right after Einstürzende Neubauten. Our patron saint is Siouxsie Sioux –
(or I suppose she’s our queen, since she’s quite alive) a strong, unapologetic, punk sorceress.
As far as performers go, I’m really opening the floor to people who want an environment to express themselves –
especially when what they’ve got to share doesn’t really fit in anywhere else. This could be dance, sound installation,
art, writing, a game – but the key is that it must be interactive. There’s no announcer, no stage, no audience. It’s more
of a happening. I love the idea of a salon (not the getting your hair-did kind!), but as a place to exchange ideas, and
even to workshop your creative process. I love performance art when it just happens unexpectedly. Announcing it tends
to kill it. It’s always better when you just catch it happening out of the corner of your eye and wonder if you might be losing
your mind, or dreaming. This is definitely the kind of space where anything might happen. At the debut, recent Austin transplant
Sassy Delure dazzled us with a dance performance that involved her portraying three very different and very strange characters in quick succession. It was truly amazing. Laurel Barickman of RECSPEC does an incredible projection installation that totally creates the tone of the night, as well as providing some pretty bizarre and exciting eye candy. Images from films like “Night of the Hunter” and Japanese cult favorite “Hausu” seemed to sync up perfectly with the set from DJ Pasht who is a powerful witch and goth club turntable veteran. Devaki Knowles of Funloving Photos sets up her photobooth, so we always end up with lots of beautiful photos of our big-haired, eye-linered guests. People dress up extravagantly for this event, and definitely take a lot of delight in digging out and donning their widow’s weeds and pointy boots. It’s fun, and we aren’t taking ourselves (or anything much) too seriously. This isn’t the kind of party where you’re going to get looked up and down for what you’re wearing, and then nobody talks to each other. Thankfully, we live in Texas – where even the goths and art-snobs are super-friendly (and fairly goofy).
Some of the music we like to play, just to give you an idea:
Echo and the Bunnymen
Gene Loves Jezebel
Love & Rockets
The Legendary Pink Dots
Siouxsie & The Banshees
Bat for Lashes
The Birthday Party
Tones On Tail
Clan of Xymox
Book of Love