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El Cadáver

El Cadaver Exquisito:  Poster


















An “Exquisite Corpse” combines documentary, fiction and experimental film-making as it traverses the social and oneiric landscape of a region struggling between modernity and tradition. It explores ritual and performance from festivals to everyday life combining the real and the surreal, the fantastical and the banal, that which is vital and that which is purely entertainment. The reenactment of rituals within changing crowds and contexts illuminates the complex striving for understanding and for giving meaning to the small acts of everyday life. They also glimpse the need for release and catharsis. The myths, as torrid and exuberant as the geography, are often more concrete than reality and during the autopsy the corpse itself reveals something more repugnant than death, the submission of the living to it. This fantastical collective biography explores the psyche of an individual reflecting a multitude. It immerses into a dense mythological universe by narrating the life of a being in the process of unbeing, a character becoming a corpse.

El Cadáver Exquisito

El Cadáver Exquisito


There are four elements that make up the foundation of my memories and of my present, that is to say, of me. They gave birth to and laced themselves through all the situations that mold my life.

Two of them arrived at the same time, while I was
still a child: my mother’s garden and my father’s library. I remember
the first one deeply; like a cloudy horizon: a forest of roses, with
stems that reached to the sky… and the second one, luminous and
impenetrable. A mysterious, long room with a small window full of
light, which spelled the garden outside of it. Time stood still in both
places, and I grew up without knowing that what we call life was

The third one arrived all the sudden, at night,
“eyes without a face.” “The icy bitch or the mother of the young
peoples.” The war began in 1980 and El Salvador exploded. The garden
was a very tall wall crowned with razor wire, and the luminous window
of the library was a television screen. The world was outside, waiting;
the world was inside a luminous box, howling.

The fourth one was a result of the three previous
ones; perhaps it was born as a possibility to revive the past, to
survive the present and to live the future. The necessity of art.
Anything was a good surface on which to draw, to color, to paint and to
write, and to decipher the world deciphering me. A cloud, a wall, a
body, a wing, a window, a halo.

Biographies reveal us to the others or they
introduce a stranger with us, in the case of the artist like the
children only their sketches.

With esteem and pride I present to you what is mine: El Cadáver Exquisito
is a project that was conceived at the beginning of 2008 in San
Salvador and New York. Victor Ruano & Sarah Walko, collaborators
on previous projects, were invited to El Salvador to give a
lecture/workshop about their work and their experience, at that time
was the dawning of the idea. The discovery and the lens in which Sarah
was absorbing a new country, and the rediscovery and lens in which
Victor’s was absorbing his country of birth which he had not visited
for approximately 9 years was drastically different but intersected in
interesting and unexpected ways.

The concept of The Exquisite Corpse,
a technique of automatic writing and drawing within a group that
originated in the Surrealist movement, was of interest to them because
of the process of working with and working through the chain of
consequences and connections that are often unexpected. This technique
also allowed them to work intuitively and non-linearly and to piece the
literal body of the film together in the editing room.  The principal
guidelines were sketched out at the projects inception and they served
as a stark skeleton that would mold the project into its form.


The guidelines:

- To invite a third Salvadoran participant that lives in El Salvador as an equal creator/contributor

- The absence of a script

- The cycle of one year to film the project

- Filming organically and spontaneously at each event, without interfering in it

- Creation of the visual and sonic story after completion of filming and during editing (Synesthesia)

- To stage only the dream sequence scenes

They approached the project with the notion that
once an idea is given birth, it has a life of its own and the film
evolved and transformed many ways along its voyage. Their perception of
the creative method was impacted by this evolution, allowing for the
name of the technique, El Cadáver Exquisito, to become predominant
semantically and literally over the technique itself, and to utilize
the literal significance of the name in the narrative and structural
pretext. El Cadáver Exquisito, which began as a method of artistic
creation, was transfigured into the principal character of the movie to
create a film in which we are guided through the psychological
landscape of a character as he traverses the social landscape of El
Salvador and he sees the world both realistically and skewed by his own
emotions and psychology, his own fears and desires. The surrealistic
dream sequences are his processing and reformulation of his experiences
inside his subconscious. The project was often filmed as if a
documentary, but it is turned into a fantastical collective biography,
an oniric chronic of social anthropophagy that tries to devour the
contemporary Salvadoran mythology by narrating the life of this being
and unbeing, this character and this corpse, El Cadáver Exquisito.

The third collaborator who lives and works in El
Salvador is Rossemberg Rivas. Victor and Rossemberg found each other
when a mutual friend told him about Rossemberg’s work in El Salvador
and his entry as a collaborator in the project was extremely fluid,
natural, and a vital contribution to the movie. Rossemberg was not only
one of the 3 conceptual minds of the project, but also an
actor/performer in the film, which he dedicates himself to entirely in
his daily life.

In the absence of a script, the theme of the
contemporary social mythology of El Salvador itself was more than
wide enough to explore the entire year it was in production. The scenes
capture the exquisite and the grotesque, the sublime and the
animalistic, the decadent and the banal. It was their goal to visually
penetrate the social surface. Their cinematic interest in the creation
of the story for the movie is to formulate and present visual questions
that are simultaneously rooted in the region and culture but through
the character, illuminate the universal human experience. They are
dedicated to the questions and the questioning, which in many cases
requires more introspection and processing of information to recognize
than the answers and they believe the power of curiosity required to
seek questions can create universal understandings that are too often
skewed by cultural barriers.

The first day of filming was October 31st, 2008, in
a hotel in the Historic Center of San Salvador and was a complete
success, and gave a glimpse of a promising future for this production.
October 10th, 2009 was the last day of filming, in the Triangle Arts
studio in Brooklyn, NY.  The vast majority of situations, events,
locations and scenes to film were found and decided upon between the
three conceptualists, Victor, Sarah and Rossemberg. Each one
contributed an idea that gradually appeared in its own ways and
interests. In the majority of cases one situation led us to the next
one, and in that way consecutively 75 different scenes were filmed.

- Victor Ruano

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