The Exquisite Corpse of Science

By Aaron Small 20/07/2009

The exquisite corpse was a technique used by the Surrealists whereby images were collectively assembled in sequence, either linked together based on a rule, or by seeing what has come before.

Arko Olesk, Graham Paterson and Tim Jones, science communicators at Imperial College in London, have applied this concept to science by asking three groups of people from various backgrounds to draw and commentate on what they think are the most important issues facing science (and the world) today.

According to the authors, their “thinking was that long questionnaires and government surveys have their place, but they don’t catch those instinctive, spur of the moment thoughts and reactions that show where someone’s really coming from. We wanted to capture the ideas that get lost in a more calculated response.”

Here is the result expressed as four drawings joined using the Surrealists’ technique of the ‘Exquisite Corpse’. One thing I think scientists forget to do a lot of the time is, in the words of MFAT CEO John Allen, “get out and talk to the people.” This is a really open and honest response, and shows what you get if you only ask. It also challenges us to see other peoples issues through their eyes.

The Exquisite Corpse of Science from Tim Jones on Vimeo.

You can check out a more in depth analysis of this exercise here at Tim Jones’ excellent blog, Zoonomian. In fact, the project is being extended, and you can now send in your own drawing. Click here to find out how!