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« The Form of Disciplines | Main | Discipline as Body (Parts) II »

October 03, 2019

Discipline as Body (Parts) I

By Aaron Knochel 

In many art classrooms across the United States, at some point in the year the art teacher will guide her students in creating an exquisite corpse. The exquisite corpse, part game and part art-making activity, was used by Surrealist artists in the early 20th century. Central to the exquisite corpse is that you have a collective submitting parts that build into an emergent whole. In drawing, a paper is folded as many times as there are group members and each member draws on their section making sure that the drawing picks up marks on the edge of the drawing above and leaves marks that invade the next section so that the next group member knows where to connect their new addition to the emerging form. Emergence in this sense is the resulting form that is created from separate parts and ultimately establishes something new: a form that cannot be reduced to those parts. Significant to the exquisite corpse is a wholeness that emerges from parts articulated through a structure, for example a folded piece of drawing paper, and transformed through an unfolding via connections at the crease of that paper.

Exquisite corpse

In the following blog posts, I will use this creative process of the exquisite corpse and its emergent production as a metaphor to gain insight into the connections that may be possible in curriculum between science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines and art education or what is referred to as STEAM (“A” standing for Art). 


This set up is already problematic. Is science really a discipline? Technology? Really!?! In the taxonomic hierarchy of knowledge isn’t that a bit higher in the ranking. It’s kind of like calling a wolf a dog because they are both in the genus Canis without any further clarification, but let’s go with it…

Moving on.

***aside over***

It is the emergent quality, the essence of unknown form, that makes the exquisite corpse a rich metaphor for drawing together disciplines into new bodies. Importantly, the exquisite corpse curriculum provides a playful structure in need of building connections that may aid in articulating the emergent, new whole. If STEAM initiatives are going to have any relevance to 21st century education it must have both this structure of connection and essence of possibility.

Anyone out there have any STEAM examples that capture this sense of emergence and connection?

- AK

Note: This series of blog posts is adapted from a much lengthier chapter for an edited book. Email me and I can send you the full copy or you can find it yourself:

Knochel, A. (2019). An exquisite corpse of curriculum: Transdisciplinarity, STEAM and Art Education [Chinese trans.]. In Y.Cooper (Ed., Trans.), On 21st Century Arts and Culture Education. Taipei, Taiwan: Hungyeh Publishing Co.


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