Music Gallery fosters spirit of creative collaboration in Exquisite Departures

18 November 2020 / by Sam Dharmasena
Featured Image for Music Gallery fosters spirit of creative collaboration in Exquisite Departures courtesy of Courtesy of Music Gallery  | CJRU

The Music Gallery is keeping the spirit of creative collaboration alive with their Exquisite Departures project which premiering Nov. 20. They brought together 15 musicians and five video artists for a special, socially-distanced music video project inspired by the age-old game, Exquisite Corpse, popularized by French surrealists in the 1920’s and 1930’s. CJRU speaks with curator Tad Michalak and video artist, Vanese Smith about the inner workings of the project, what the public can expect during Friday night livestream on Nov. 20 and the Bandcamp and cassette releases that will follow.


“More traditionally it’s [Exquisite Corpse] played as an illustration game, where someone will draw, say, part of a body. So someone will draw a piece of the body, fold it over, and hand it over to the next person. ” Michalak explains. “And that following person will only get to see the last couple lines of the previous person’s drawing. And based on those couple lines, they’ll be able to create their piece of the drawing. And they’ll fold it over, hand it to the next person, so on and so forth.”


Michalak reworked the game and he views his version as more of a recording project or music video project. The musicians, playing everything from synthesizers to the cello, had individual studio time but had to continue a song where the previous musician had left off. Similarly, video artists were sent snippets of another artist’s work, and had to continue in their own style. The collection of 15 recorded tracks and their music videos will be premiering on Nov. 20 during a livestream event hosted on the Music Gallery’s website. Michalak says that all the recordings are finished and the final video art pieces are starting to roll in.


Artwork for Exquisite Departures by Vanese Smith

Artwork for Exquisite Departures by Vanese Smith


Smith creates visual art under the moniker Mo:delic Arts and produces music as Pursuit Grooves. She describes her style as geometric, nature-oriented, and colourful. For Exquisite Departures, she contributed as a video artist and says that she spent a few hours on each piece. She tackles music and visual art in similar ways and her inspiration for visual work often comes from films that she captures on her travels and daily life.


“A lot of the things I create are based on patterns that are very geometrical. I also approach it how I approach music production, which is different layers. You can take a few different elements and separately they look like one thing but once you combine them, they take your mind to a different place where you’re not too sure what you’re seeing but you’re here for it,” she explains.


The livestream is only the first component to the project. There will also be a Bandcamp and cassette release to give the project some longevity and permanence. The pandemic has propelled the arts industry into an era of livestreaming but Michalak explains that audiences can only consume so many livestreamed recreations of the concert experience.


“With live streaming events, It’s not as easy to be hyper engaged or nearly as engaged as you would be at a live show. But this project is definitely built for the online audience, like where else do you watch music videos besides online? This project is designed for that space,” he says.


For Michalak, projects like Exquisite Departures are the way forward. In the planning process, Michalak considered the fleeting nature of livestreaming and the inaccessibility for audiences without stable internet connections. Those are some of the reasons why the Nov. 20 livestream is the Exquisite Departures premiere, but the project is designed to live on far beyond that date, the entire collection will be released on the final Bandcamp Day of the year, Dec. 4.


In the midst of venue closures, uncertainty and lockdowns discussions, Exquisite Departures is a breath of fresh air.


To hear more from Tad Michalak and Vanese Smith, listen to the interview below.