As a child, I played a game where someone drew a squiggle and another person was to transform it into an identifiable “object”. Later in an art class, we learned a more sophisticated version of this; a piece of paper was folded and each participant contributed to a clean sector only by referring to the end of what the previous person had drawn. Little did I know that this activity evolved out of a surrealist parlor game known as consequences. In this method of collection and assembly, each collaborator adds to an existing composition in a sequence, either through an established rule or by only seeing the most recent contribution, either as words or a drawing. The end result is a juxtaposed yet calculated whole that references contextual clues from the change in author, fragmenting and mutilating pieces along the way. We now refer to this creation as the exquisite corpse.

Four Rooms (1995) adapts the notion of the exquisite corpse as a motif into film, allowing four directors (Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino) to individually compose thematic elements. Set in a hotel on New Year’s Eve, Ted the bellhop -and the hotel itself- are the only common threads linking this film together. One occurring immediately after another, four story lines are written and directed by the four different contributors and rather than a cacophony of plot, the linear progression of the film divides these four contributions chronologically into chapters. Ted gets coerced into eroticism with a coven of witches in the ‘Honeymoon Suite’, thrown in the midst of a manic homicide in Room 404, bribed into watching the children of a mob member and in doing so is set into a flurry of terrible circumstances within Room 309, and ends his night in the Penthouse, tending to a celebrity’s drunken bet involving a vintage cars and dismemberment.

By witnessing this chain of isolated events held together by the contextual placement of a hotel, the viewer reconsiders the notion of what a hotel room is intended to accommodate. While the physical boundaries of a room define a space, the interaction within that space is defined by an event. Beyond simply programming a space for specific activity, this anthology demonstrates that although a room might be named mundanely as such, it becomes so much more with the erratic behavior of humans. By setting plot within connected rooms, a hierarchy of spaces develops instances of events fragmenting and assembling beyond constructed boundaries. Regardless of the space, occupation  –even when temporary- allows for the user to define it as they desire. //

Dillon Webster is a product of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s B.Arch program where he developed an interest in the sociological processes that create dialogue with the built environment. He is currently a Project Designer at DLR Group in Seattle.

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