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Kurt Schwitters

Posted 12-17-2010 at 04:37 AM by Steve Bucknell
Updated 01-30-2011 at 08:43 AM by Steve Bucknell
Dada artist, refugee, master of the spicileging arts. Kurt Schwitters (20 June 1887 - 8 January 1948.)


Ice Clocks



Boil clocks boil breathe ice

Ember crumbles ember simmer ice

Clocks cook clocks ice simmer ember

Clocks cook ice

Mimosa, orange, aphrodite, tulip flora, aphrodite.

I drift through life a dead fish.




Trans.Jerome Rothenberg.

Kurt Schwitters. From pppppp poems performances pieces proses plays poetics. Exact Change.2002.


The Legacy


Werner Schmalenbach, the German art historian perhaps most responsible for resurrecting Schwitters after the Second World War, described the resonance of Schwitter’s legacy at the time of his death: “When Kurt Schwitters died in England in his sixty-first year, the event went virtually unnoticed; indeed, his name meant little save to old friends and members of the avant-garde of the 1920’s on the Continent. First the Hitler Terror and then the war had scattered these people all over the globe...in Germany he was almost totally forgotten...German art circles from 1945 on were mainly concerned with rediscovering the expressionists.”

Yet despite personal and professional misfortune over the course of his lifetime, Schwitters never lost the sense of who he was as an individual and as an artist. In the words of Walter Benjamin, he was “like a shipwrecked man who keeps afloat by climbing to the top of a mast that is already disintegrating. But from there he has the chance to signal for his rescue.” It is one of the sadder pages in modern history that Kurt Schwitters was not rescued during the course of his lifetime. Only recently has the full import of his artwork and contributions begun to be recognised, contributions which are not limited to the world of art and architecture alone, but resonate throughout philosophy and literature as well.

From Merzbau. The Cathedral of Erotic Misery. Elizabeth Burns Gamard. Princeton Architectural Press.2000.


Leave There Thy Gift


Merz?
“Psychological collage.” KS.
“A standpoint that everyone can use.” KS.
Flight : Found objects. Oil on board.
Portrait : Fellow internee. Oil on lino.
Merz hills, walls, stones, trees, flags, sky.
Tracked lines of birds in flight.

A passing van: Screed Flow Installations. Put that in.

New York MOMA write to him at
4 Millans Park, Ambleside, West Moreland, England: Dear Mr Schwitters,
we award you one thousand dollars
to support you in your explorations.

Ill, in bed, making Schwittering noises;
“Stop! There’s no need for that!” the Doctor said.
“But these are the noises I like to make,” said Kurt,
singer and sayer of the sound-poem Ursonate.

Nothing at all to go back to in Hanover:
no Helma, no home, no land but Merz.
Das Herz geht vom Zucker zum Kaffee.KS.
Sculpt brick and air and wire as you can.

First prize, second prize and third at the Lake District flower show!
The local worthies denounce him: “Professional Artist!”
Kurt smiles,better this than “Entartete Künstler”
“I know I am important for all time.” KS.

Living hand to mouth: at the Central Cafe,
sketching portraits for cake and coffee.
His creaking heart climbing Gale Crescent,
then sliding down it on the ice of 1946.
Hunting for tickets, fag-packets, coloured scraps,
connecting them to make them merge and sing.

Merz Barn, Cylinders Farm, Elterwater:
go there hand in hand, Kurt and Wantee,
play, make your paradise, build free
arches in time, arcs of colour and line.
Include the uninhibited and intimate
tactile sensations of deep merzality.
This is a lasting place of your memory.

A shambling man and a dark Wantee
construct this refugee collage
of plaster, sherds and colour.
He always waits for you to appear
on the stairs, your face round the door,
always smiling there saying: “Want tea?”

Abandoned: she raised her mouth;
abandoned ,also forsaken, cast under
as we all are and must always be.
Merz mountains rising in the merzing light.

The grave at Ambleside empty, we know,
but we still look along Gale Crescent
to glimpse him walking to the cinema
at Bowness for A Night in Casablanca.
“Merz is the smile at the grave
and seriousness on cheerful occasions.”KS.

In the Armitt Library the 1611 King James Bible
open at Matthew Chapter V. verse 24:
“Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way.”
Deep peace arranged upon this table:
Elderfield’s and Mary Burkett’s pages
praise you on this glowing afternoon.

Amber light streams over Windermere.
Find the words to fit this frame.
All is serene in this liminal scene.
Bottles, bricks, plaster, rubble, dust and ashes change.
Merz is a building-site of transformation,
Merz is a door pushed open.

Ambleside-London-Sheffield. 21.-25.01. 2011.
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