Get lost in This Exquisite Forest, a collaboration between Google and the Tate Modern (video)

19 Jul 2012

Google’s Creative Lab and the Tate Modern in London have teamed up to bring us This Exquisite Forest, an online art experiment that lets users contribute to short animations using a web-based drawing tool.

The porject is based on the ‘exquisite corpse’, a creative technique invented by the Surrealists where writers or artists collaborate on a piece, each person adding to a composition one by one (usually following a theme or rule), but the next contributor can only see where the last left off and no more.

With This Exquisite Forest, users are invited to add to short animations by seven renowned artists – Bill Woodrow, Dryden Goodwin, Julian Opie, Mark Titchner, Miroslaw Balka, Olafur Eliasson and Raqib Shaw – either using online drawing tools or on a visit to the Tate Modern using digital drawing stations.

The seeds of creativity

Each of these artists has created an initial ‘seed’ animation to which new segments are added, branching off in different directions as more collaborators join in. As the animation grows, a ‘tree’ is formed with each branch representing a new piece of animation that was added.

Visitors to the site can see the trees that have been created and, by hovering over different leaves, can see a variety of different animations spawned from the same starting point.

This Exquisite Forest screenshot

It really has to be seen to be believed, and it’s quite possible for a user to get lost among the various animations, seeing how different offshoots take you to a whole new ending.

Anyone can plant a new seed animation and start their own story, adding more trees to the forest.

On 23 July, an interactive installation in the Tate Modern will display the trees seeded by the initial seven artists along with the public’s contribution to their work.

This Exquisite Forest installation, Tate Modern

This Exquisite Forest runs on Google App Engine and Google Cloud Storage and uses several of Google Chrome’s advanced HTML5 and JavaScript features, including a Web Audio API that allows contributors to add music to their submissions.


Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.