Unconventional and bizarre, anarchist and meaningless: collagen-art made of waste, winding grottos, a backwards alphabet, a rampant private flat with no outside world, nonsensical poems. Lunacy and conversations reduced to absurdity until there is absolutely no sense left: These were the hallmarks of the Dada-artist, poet, composer and advertising designer Kurt Schwitters from Hanover.
His art, however, was shaped by the aftershocks of the First World War that had unleased an unimagined rage of destruction. The war had moved from the battlefields into people’s heads. It had destroyed the familiar world into fragments, all previously valid contexts of sense lost all their meaning. A deeply rooted feeling of disorientation spread.
Art served as a counter-world to the existing bourgeois society for Schwitters, as a whimsical anti-cosmos beyond established logic: "Merz-art", as he called his own work. A syllable that he had cut from the "Kom merz - und Privatbank". To the artist, "Merz" meant overcoming the contradictions of world and art, sense and nonsense and the borders between the arts.
For nine years (1923-1932), Schwitters meticulously worked on his sound poem Ursonate, while the crises of the modern world were raging around him.
Although he followed the structure of a classical sonata with four movements, he filled it with his unkempt language material and reshaped it into an anti-sonata – a playful deconstruction of the art enjoyed by the educated bourgeoisie. Schwitters liberated the language that had been co-opted by ideology by reducing it to its original sounds to dissolve all semantic references and to create new meaning through this process of atomising speech.
And in his eyes, this absurd poetry of sound with bellowing, hissing, crowing was a revolt, too, the beginning of something new. Vive la crise!
Or, in the words of the middle classes’ bogeyman: Fümms bö wö tää zää Uu.
On 28.11.2023 at 7 pm there will be a lecture on the presentation. The guest will be the director of the Kurt Schwitters Archive at the Sprengel Museum in Hanover.