Google, Chris Milk & Tate Modern Team Up For Online Exquisite Corpse Project

Posted July 19

Ever create an Exquisite Corpse? You know, that Surrealist game where you fold a paper into sections, draw some feet, pass it to a friend who draws the legs who passes it to a friend who draws the torso, etc? Well, now you can help create a massive animated version of that game — with music, no less — and exhibit the final product in the Tate Modern in London, England.

“This Exquisite Forest” is a new project from Google’s Aaron Koblin and director Chris Milk, the masterminds behind projects like Arcade Fire’s interactive music video experience “The Wilderness Downtown” and collaborative music video “The Johnny Cash Project.” Both of these videos were nominated for O Music Awards (Most Innovative Music Video), as was Chris Milk (Digital Genius Award).

“After ‘The Johnny Cash Project,’ Jane Burton from the Tate Modern approached me and Chris and asking ‘What could we do together?’” Koblin told O Music Blog. “Chris and I saw it as an opportunity to create a more open-ended collaboration platform. In ‘The Johnny Cash Project,’ we saw people really trying to take the story in new directions. They were expressing themselves in really interesting ways and we wanted to make something that would allow people to direct the story itself.”

“The Johnny Cash Project” is a dedicated website where fans can use a drawing tool to redraw frames of footage of the country legend. Those frames are then incorporated into ever-changing videos — videos that also scored a Grammy nomination for Best Short Form Music Video in 2010.

“This Exquisite Forest” is similarly interactive, but much more open than Koblin and Milk’s previous collaboration. When you visit the website, you’ll have to sign in or register to interact. Once you’ve done so, you can click around a series of “trees” already created by artists handpicked by the Tate Modern: Miroslaw Balka, Olafur Eliasson, Dryden Goodwin, Raqib Shaw, Julian Opie, Mark Titchner and Bill Woodrow. Clicking on a tree will yield directions from the artist on how to add to their story. From there, you can hover over any section of the tree to see that part of the story and how it branches off from previous parts. When you find a section you like, you can click to add your own spin.

“The project simulates a natural selection process, only for narrative, where the strongest, most engaging versions of the story are the ones that ultimately survive and prosper,” Milk says in a video describing the project.

Users can also create their own trees (only after contributing to another tree), both drawing images and adding music via a suite of instruments. The whole shebang works best in Google Chrome, and was built using HTML5 and JavaScript, as well as Google’s App Engine and Cloud Storage.

“The Forest” doesn’t only exist online, though. “On Monday it will open in the [Tate] publicly,” Koblin says. “There are drawing stations where people can contribute, and a gallery with large wall projections being controlled by ‘flashlights,’ which use invisible infrared to allow visitors to select animations on the large trees.”

This isn’t the first time the Tate has worked with Google. They previously collaborated on online art gallery, the Google Art Project, as well as live-streamed performances titled “BMW Tate Live.”

Will you go grow your own tree?