symposium merzbau - cabaret voltaire - dada zürich
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Abstract Symposium Merzbau:

The Merzbau is an implosion. From 1923 to 1936 the artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) worked on his Merzbau in Hanover, which is said to be the central work in the complete oeuvre of the Merz artist. It was destroyed by an allied air raid in 1943 and only a few photographs and descriptions remain. The Merzbau has therefore been transfigured in many different ways.

Driven by the transfigurations that have befallen the Merzbau, here it will be formulated as a metaphor and module, a device for contemporary artistic, architectural, and social practices and developments. It is used as a trigger for architects and artists to deal with contemporary complexity.
With the idea of the Merzbau as a „Gesamtkunstwerk", it can be seen as a dynamic system with many feedback loops: Kurt Schwitters carried the world he knew into the Merzbau and processed it in there. This Merz processing is re-exported into the exterior world, which gets processed inside the Merzbau again.
The project «Symposium Merzbau» culminates once a year in a public conference in cabaret voltaire, Zurich. Aim of the project is to research, channel and publish the contemporary potential that is released by the Merzbau as metaphor and trigger in art and architecture. Starting in cabaret voltaire «Symposium Merzbau» should become a topic, with wich contemporary architects and artist can identify.



Kurt Schwitters Merzbau:

Kurt Schwitters himself described the Merzbau (Merz Building) as his life's work. The enormous significance which Schwitters attached to this work is evidenced by the fact that, from 1923 onwards, he devoted himself to it assiduously and, despite all untoward circumstances, began it four times: first in Hannover, then in two different places in Norway in 1937, and finally in exile in the Lake District in the North of England in 1947. The Merzbau in Hannover was destroyed in an Allied air raid and the Norwegian version fell a victim to a fire and decay. Only the English version remained, though Schwitters died before he could complete it. The Merzbau in Hannover was a fantastically constructed interior, as bewildering as it was abstract. The walls and ceiling were covered with a diversity of three - dimensional shapes and the room itself was crowded with materials and objects - or "spoils and relics", as Schwitters himself put it - which were contained in countless nooks and grottoes, some of them totally obstructed by later additions to the work, with the result that their contents then existed only in one's memory of the Merzbau in one of its former states. The Merzbau was - "on principle" - an uncompleted work and continued to grow, changing constantly. The starting point of the work was Schwitters' studio in his house at No. 5 Waldhausenstrasse. However the work grew and grew until finally, just before Schwitters' emigration to Norway, as many as eight rooms had been "merzed", including the skylight in the roof and the space underneath the groundfloor balcony. The actual center of the Merzbau was a free-standing sculpture, commenced in 1920, which Schwitters called the Säule des erotischen Elends (Column of Erotic Misery). The artist once remarked that everything that was of any importance to him was contained in the Merzbau. This statement refers not only to Schwitters' ideas and overall artistic concept but also to concrete, everyday objects: souvenirs of friends and other things of sentimental value were stored in niches and later walled in. There were grottoes, for example, for Hans Arp and Theo van Doesburg, two caves for Hannah Höch, a cave for Lissitzky and one for Mies van der Rohe, as well as grottoes dedicated to abstract things and ideas, e.g. a Goethe Grotto, a Murderers' Cave, and even a "Love Grotto". Consequently, the Merzbau was also a kind of "constructed autobiography, a building of personal and historical reminiscences. It was not until the beginning of the thirties, however, that the Merzbau attained the Purist State shown on the surviving photographs taken at that time. Schwitters had by then turned the Merzbau into a constructivistic assemblage of white wood and plaster, reflecting the change in his own personal circumstances. It was under the pressure of the changing political situation in Germany that Schwitters' Merzbau became an alternative to restrictive reality. Schwitters came to terms with the political reality of the outside world by withdrawing within himself, by fleeing into the personal, domestic world of artistic fantasy. Schwitters described this development in a text entitled Ich und meine Ziele (Myself and My Aims), which he wrote in 1931: "Many grottoes have long since disappeared below the surface, like the Luther Corner, for example. The literary content is Dadaist, but that is understandable. After all, it dates back to 1923, and I was a Dadaist at that time. However, since the column has taken seven years to build, its form has developed with ever increasing severity, especially the ribs, exactly in keeping with my own intellectual development. The overall impression is one of a Cubist painting or Gothic architecture (not really!)."



ADRESSE und ÖFFNUNGSZEITEN cabaret voltaire Präsidialdepartement der Stadt Zürich