Digital dadaism

About the Cadavres Exquis Vivants by Christoph Bruckner

The Cadavre Exquis is a playful method with multiple authorship that originated in the surrealism of the 1920s. Following a syntactically correct sentence scheme, each participant wrote part of a sentence without knowing what the participant had written before. This led to absurd sentences like the one that gave the game its name: The delicious corpse will drink the new wine. Later, the Surrealists extended the method to representational drawings. Now each artist contributed a body part, again without knowing what the others had drawn.

The artists Roland Rauschmeier and Ulu Braun, who call themselves the duo BitteBitteJaJa, took up the surrealist thread in the mid-1990s and produced about 500 Cadavre Exquis on paper. Some of the works were sent back and forth between the places where Rauschmeier and Braun stayed, following the model of Mail Art. In some of these works, other people were also involved.

In terms of content, these works on paper conveyed much that was also of central importance to the Surrealists, above all, of course, the moment of chance, the absurd, the grotesque and their utilisation for the field of art.

In 2009, Rauschmeier and Braun then transferred the system to the field of the moving image under the title Cadavres Exquis Vivants. With material they shot themselves, excerpts from film history and videos from the internet, some of which were extended by microloops, and excessive use of digital compositing and special effects, they created what the artists call digital Dadaism. The works have so far been shown both in art halls and in museum contexts. In keeping with the Surrealists’ original intermedial approach, not only the history of the moving image is an important referent, but also the history of representational painting, something like the interplay of figure and ground. An important contemporary reference for the project are those digitally animated videos of the present that combine the hyperreal, as figurative painting did in Surrealism, with the unreal.

Like the works of Ed Atkins or Helen Marten, the Cadavres Exquis Vivants integrate elements of the spontaneous and the composed. To push the intermedial game even further, BitteBitteJaJa plan to distribute their videos as NFTs. A Non-Fungible Token is a digital object that is not replaceable (non-fungible). It is used to mark virtual goods and digital art to make them tradable. While the digital object can be copied as often as desired, an NFT is not replaceable or copyable.