ABSTRACT on art, based of quantitative data extracted


Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), a German born artist, who spent
the last two years of his life in the Lake District. His contribution to the
development of modern art, has been underestimated for a long time. However,
for the past two decades as per his predictions, his work has become
increasingly more recognised and it continues to influence many artists and architects.

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Schwitters created a form of DADA, that he called Merz*. He
overturned the traditional notion of sculpture and created ‘Merzbau’ or Merz
Building. Merzbauten were walk in sculptures, a room size installation of built
and found elements, meant to be viewed as a single artwork. They were complete
environments that encompassed the visitor, and in his lifetime, he created
three; Hanover, begun around 1930, destroyed by allied bombs in 1943: Lysaker,
Haus am Bakken, begun 1937, destroyed by fire in 1951: and Elterwater, Merz
Barn, begun 1947, never completed. In 1934 he worked on a primitive hut in on
the island of Hjertoya in Moldefjord, Norway. Merzhytte, never really regarded
as a Merzbau itself, but is very similar in form to the Merz Barn in Elterwater.

Schwitters worked on the Merz Barn for the last year of his
life, in deteriorating health, and it was never complete. Set in Harry Pierce’s
landscape project, the Cylinders Estate, in Elterwater, Lake District. After
his death, his work in the Merz Barn was wearing away due to weather conditions
and in 1965 the Merz Barn wall was moved to Hatton Gallery, Newcastle. After
Harry Pierce’s death the historical garden and what remains of the Merz Barn
fell in ruin, but for the past 12 years the site has been owned by the Littoral
Arts Trust, who worked hard to save the site from decay. In 2011 The Art
Council stopped funding the project, and because it is costly to manage, the
property has been put up for sale earlier this year.

This paper aims to propose means of reconstructing the
existing fragments to form a new ensemble and introduce the function of a
museum/ gallery to the Cylinders State, Cumbria. Which lines up with the
Littoral Art Trust’s initiative, The Merz Barn Project, that aims to: secure
the future of the Merz Barn and the surrounding landscape, increase public
access and awareness, as well as work as an educational institution for artists
and architects.

The reformulation of fragments can be achieved through
establishing an understanding of:

• The artist himself, his life and his views on art, based
of quantitative data extracted from archival resources, published articles,
books and online resources. 

• The site, Cylinders Estate, its history and relevance to
the Merz Barn using unpublished resources from Harry Pierce’s* Archive. As well
as the condition it was found in in 2006, through interviews with Littoral Art

• Theories on fragments, ruins and the unfinished in
architecture.  How Schwitters literally
used the ruin and the ruined, fragments of the immediate past, trash, as his
material of choice.

• Preceding Merzbauten, and their relevance in predicting or
imagining Schwitters’ intention for the Merz Barn, by conducting a comparative
study of each of the Merzbauten that Schwitters created around him in Hanover
and Norway.






Kurt Schwitters, creator of Merz, born on June 20, 1887 on
Rumanstrasse, Hanover, Germany and died in exile in the Lake District at just
60 years old. His works and ideas crossed a variety of disciplines; he was a
poet, painter, sculptor, graphic designer, typographer and a self-publicist. He
shared many of the same interests with the Cubists, Dadaists, Constructivists
and the Surrealists. However, his rejections from the Dadaists and his
conscious decision of separation led him to simultaneously create his own
one-man movement, Merz. During his lifetime, through his narrow circle of friends,
his work was exhibited in different exhibition across Europe and the States. It
is only recently that his work has begun to achieve recognition and critical
justice, which Schwitters didn’t live to see. 
He is, nonetheless, one of the artists who had major contribution to Art
in the 20th century.


Schwitters was an only child; his parents, Eduard and
Henriette owned a prosperous clothing store. He suffered from Epilepsy, when he
was 14 he experienced his first epileptic fit and his seizures were said to
have lasted over five hours. Schwitters studied art and drawing at various
institutions, including the Hanover School of Applied Arts and the Dresden
Academy of Art. At this time, the Dresden Academy abhorred modernism and were
not interested in the avant-garde. Schwitters early art was said to be very
conservative and is not remotely related to the way in which it was to develop
in later years.  In 1915, he
unsuccessfully tried to establish himself as a painter, and later in the same
year he married his cousin, Helma Fischer. They lived in a small apartment at
the top of Schwitters’ parents’ house and used to receive financial aid from
Helma’s parents. This is also where Schwitters set up his studio and he
continued to live and work there until he had to flee Hanover in 1937.
Unfortunately, a year after he got married, his first son died at only eight
days of age. However, 1918 witnessed the birth of his second son Ernst as well
as his life defining work, Merz.  Schwitters
could not be enlisted in the armed forces at the start of World War I due to
his epilepsy, but he served as a technical draftsman in a factory just outside
Hanover for the last one and a half years of the war, which he detested. This
period is believed to have influenced his later work.

In the war I
discovered my love for the wheel and recognized that machines are abstractions
of the human spirit.