domingo, 7 de abril de 2013
Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau ("The Cathedral of Erotic Misery") by Elizabeth Burns Gamard
By Douglas Harding
INTRODUCTION: KURT SCHWITTERS' SEHNSUCHT
Although completely destroyed by Allied bombing raids over Hannover in 1943, Kurt Schwitters' vast architectural construction, Die Kathedrale des erotischen Elends ("the Cathedral of Erotic Misery"), or Merzbau , remains one of the most compelling artworks of the twentieth-century. Recent interpretations of the Merzbau have attempted to explicitly situate the project in terms of contemporary issues in art and architecture, comparing Schwitters' construction with works as diverse as the Francesco Colonna's late-sixteenth century architectural parable Hypnerotomachia ("Love and Strife in a Dream"), also known as the Polyphili,1 Abbot Suger's Cathedral at St. Denis, Sir John Soane's House and Museum (13-17 Lincoln's Inn Fields), and Walter Benjamin's unfinished Passagenwerk or The Arcades Project 2. Artists Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Beuys, among others have also sought to extend Schwitters' overall artistic project within the framework of their own creative practices 3. In architecture, the project has been afforded the same talismanic status as Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion and Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building in Buffalo. More recently, it has been suggested that Rem Koolhaas' architectural research and practice contains traces of both the method and content of Schwitters' unique approach to assemblage. As Ernst Nündel suggests, the physical nature of the Merzbau, as well as the ideas that are manifest in the project, continue to develop and grow, "...in the memory of those who have seen it, in the imagination of its descendants, and in the speculations of art historians. Each individual has his or her own interpretation of the Merzbau.4"
The chaos of Schwitters' personal life and career echoes the tumult of the era in which he lived. Born in 1887, Schwitters' artistic coming-of-age did not occur until after World War I when he had already reached his thirtieth birthday. Moving successively through Expressionism, Dada, and Constructivism, the rapid development that characterized Schwitters' work was similar to that of most of his contemporaries 5. In 1937, Schwitters was designated an entartete Künstler (degenerate artist) by the Nazis. As a consequence of this and the ensuing events of World War II, many of his artworks were either lost or destroyed 6. While Schwitters could have likely managed to forestall any overt action against him by the fascist regime by remaining silent, he chose instead to speak out, privately and publicly against Hitler's government 7.
The 'suspicious' activities of Schwitters and many of his close friends and colleagues finally forced Schwitters to leave for Norway in January of 1938, barely avoiding arrest (officially stated as a request for an interview) by the Gestapo . His son, Ernst, had also been in jeopardy for some time and had left Hannover via Hamburg for Oslo in the early hours of 26 December 1936, thereby preceding his father's immigration by several days. When Nazi Germany invaded Norway in 1940, father and son were again on the move, traveling further to the north before crossing by boat to Edinburgh where they were incarcerated by the British government and held in internment camps for eighteen months 9. After their release, Schwitters and his son lived in and around London before finally moving to Ambleside in the Lake District in June of 1945.
While the degenerate and difficult conditions of his internment resulted in extensive physical and emotional scars, the war and subsequent exile from Germany left him destitute and disoriented in the most literal sense. Virtually unknown in art circles (excepting the United States), Schwitters died in England on the 8th of January 1948. In chronicling his life, Werner Schmalenbach, the German art historian perhaps most responsible for resurrecting Schwitters after the second World War, described the resonance of Schwitters' 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 1920s 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.10" 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 a chance to signal for his rescue.11" It is one of the sadder pages in modern history that Kurt Schwitters was not rescued during the course of his lifetime. It is only recently that the full import of his artwork and contributions have begun to be recognized, contributions which are not limited to the world of art and architecture alone, but resonate throughout philosophy and literature as well.
While the resurgence of interest in Schwitters' Merzbau has likely been the result of the project's formal characteristics (characteristics that evoke the potential of a variety of contemporary theoretical positions in architecture) it is also due to the relevance of the underlying themes that inform Schwitters' construction. These themes include the role of mysticism, sexuality and autobiography in the production of art and architecture, as well as the possible reading of the project as a Wunderkammer, or archive of the time and space in which it was situated. Developed during a period of intense upheaval in European history, the Merzbau indeed represents not only a condensed version of one man's creative and personal life, but a luminous manuscript of events surrounding the first World War, events that continue to resonate throughout the course of art and architectural history.
The actual form and contents of Kurt Schwitters' Hannover Merzbau remain somewhat of a mystery still today. Recent scholarship has attempted to unveil the considerable mythology surrounding the project. Rivaled only by the enigmatic content of Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors Even), the Merzbau has been described by John Elderfield as a "phantasmagoria and dream grotto." Besides Elderfield's and Schmalenbach's brief analyses of the Merzbau, Dietmar Elger's Werkmonographie and Dorothea Dietrich's writings on Schwitters' work have shed considerable light on the project 12. With her 1997 biography on Kurt "Merz" Schwitters, Gwendolyn Webster relied on her conversations with Schwitters' son, Ernst, who elaborated on his own experience playing and living in the project 13. Literary critic and scholar Ute Brandes' commentary on the Merzbau is indispensable in situating the project in terms of German cultural history and, alternately, in terms of Schwitters complex and multi-faceted relationship to women 14. Particular note must be made of the more specialized material developed by Janice Schall 15 and Annegreth Nill 16, both of whom have attempted to place Schwitters' works in light of recent scholarship on Dada. Even more recently, Marc Dachy has suggested that Schwitters' impulse to create a vast Merzkunstwerk ("Merz work of art") 17, one in which the spectator would be immersed in both time and space, parallels the various architectonic works by El Lissitzky ("Cabinet abstrait," "Prounenraum"), the De Stijl complex known as l'Aubette à Strasbourg (1926-1928), a collaborative effort by Hans Arp, Sophie Taüber, and Theo van Doesburg; and the constructions of Dada-Constructivist Tomoyoshi Murayama, a Japanese national who lived in Berlin during the late-teens and early-twenties 18. In this sense, Schwitters' construction could also be compared to Jose Plecnik's extensive architectural ruminations for the city of Ljubljana and even Max Ernst's enigmatic murals installed in Max and Gala Eluard's house in the Paris suburb of Eaubonne as well, though Dachy does not mention these projects specifically. The sum of this material has provided considerable groundwork and insight into the form, method, and contents of the Merzbau.
While the Merzbau can indeed be viewed as a latent critique of the alienating conditions of modern technological culture (both Elger's and Dietrich's work fall into this category) its alternative title, Die Kathedrale des erotischen Elends (The Cathedral of Erotic Misery) or KdeE, suggests the possibility of additional interpretations. Schwitters' own pronouncements on the project were relatively few and far between, and the various anecdotes of individuals who saw the construction over the course of its development are not only fragmentary, but are often times based on the imperfect recall of distant memory. Attempts to unveil the numerous themes which underscore the Merzbau must therefore take into account not only Schwitters' statements and the multiple fragments of visitors to the project, but the literary and visual works that parallel its development. While these literary and visual works do not in themselves contain the necessary evidence for a definitive interpretation of Schwitters' specific intentions with regards to the Merzbau, selected components of his extensive literary and visual productions, as well as those of his contemporaries, do lend a significant amount of insight into the ideas he was working with from the point of the project's inception (sometime between 1919-1923) until his abrupt abandonment of the project at the time of his forced emigration to Norway on the second of January, 1937.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Schwitters' approach to his art was the fact that the work was both developmental and incorporative. He did not operate according to a fixed stratagem, but rather forged his material from events and circumstances as they presented themselves. Accordingly, there is no obvious fixed point or referent from which his overall approach might be apprehended. Rather, Schwitters' approach required a seamless interplay between his life and his art. To this end, he was not exclusive, but resolutely inclusive, preferring the accumulation of affects and effects to critical speculation. This is not to say that the work he produced was not subject to critical insight and refinement; he was clearly capable of adjusting and readjusting an initial idea for the sake of the work's efficacy. Yet he did not approach the work of art with a preconceived notion of what should be, but instead worked through the nature and use of materials and artifacts in terms of their intrinsic relationships. In this sense, Schwitters' artwork was never about the object itself, but the dynamic of relations that appeared in the course of their making. This approach became more and more refined to the point where nothing he created was not subjected to the possibility of further revision at a later date. As he stated in an article from 1931 entitled "Ich und meine Ziele (Me and my work)," an article that appears as part of his self-published anthology, Das erstes Veilchenheft (the twenty-first issue of his self-published journal, Merz, which bore the subtitle "first Violet notebook") the work was, "in principle, always in flux. 19"
While the vast majority of writing on modern art and architecture has extended the Enlightenment project of formulating a master narrative, Kurt Schwitters' literary and visual artworks stand out in their resistance to claims of totality and consolidation. The "modern project to rigor" implicitly exiles artists like Schwitters.20 In art and architecture, significant recognition is afforded only to those whose works exhibit the necessary transparency - figuratively and methodologically - for analysis. Schwitters' art disputes this imperative and hence remain largely peripheral to the artistic and critical imagination. Taken together, the peculiarities of his personal circumstances, as well as the opaque nature of his artistic project, have effectively worked in concert to deny Schwitters a significant place in the history of art and literature. Even today, one of the most critical problems in approaching Schwitters' project lay not with the work itself, but with the terms that have been used to discuss the work. Until recently, nearly all art criticism has relied on formal categories. This is particularly true in the case of modern art criticism, which has conformed almost entirely to the language and ideology of formalist analysis. Hence, most, though not all, attempts to comprehend Schwitters' oeuvre have relied almost entirely on the art-historical context in which he worked, a context which has been developed and refined in such a way as to promote exclusive rather than inclusive categories. The institutional bias present in art museums and the academy resists alternative or exceptional cases. This is clearly the case with Schwitters, who, despite highly publicized exhibitions and the appropriation of his works in support of various movements and individuals, remains marginal to the recognized project of modernism. The art historian Rudi Fuchs, in his short book entitled Conflicts with Modernism or the Absence of Kurt Schwitters, renders the following observations on the position of Kurt Schwitters as a 'modern' artist:
Unlike Mondrian (and unlike many contemporary abstract artists who reflect Mondrian's attitude), Kurt Schwitters was never fanatic about purity. He was a very "impure" artist. And, when I speak of Schwitters' absence, I also mean to say that the very idea of impurity (or the idea of compromise and aesthetic contamination as a source of inspiration) is largely absent from Modernist artistic consciousness. Modernism's insistence on abstraction and on the way to arrive at it, by stripping the medium of its unnecessary or impure elements, had to result in a very rarified idea of an artwork as a thing of extreme clarity, physical elegance, balance, intelligence and perfection...a juggler like Schwitters is seen as a renegade...there was little single-mindedness in his career; there were too many things he wanted to do at the same time. That easily raises the suspicions of amateurism. He had no great interest in the finely chiseled ultimate artwork. He was the practical and poetic magician.21
In Decoding Merz, Annegreth Nill also confronts this problem, stating that most of Schwitters' work has been almost universally interpreted from a formalist-modernist stance. Among scholars and critics of Schwitters' work there remains, according to Nill, "a veritable conspiracy of denial of ("literary") content," that is, questions of meaning.23 To date, the formal concerns have by and large eclipsed any attempts to apprehend the content, a condition which Schwitters himself contributed to given his repeated allusions to the primacy of form over content in statements regarding his art. Yet it is through the question of content, not in a symbolic sense, but in a hermeneutic sense, that we may begin to understand the intimate relationship between Schwitters' ideas, processes, and productions. The most complicated and enigmatic of his projects, Schwitters' Merzbau mirrors the artist's fitful attempts to negotiate a path through the miasma of his work and life. While he was the primary interlocutor and advocate for this undertaking, he was also its prevailing subject. Characterized by Hans Richter as "a proliferation that never ceased," the Merzbau was a vast, organic enterprise destined to grow unchecked. The literal residence of Schwitters' experience, as well as a primary site of his artistic meditations, the construction did not represent a plan or project in the traditional sense, having no beginning or end. In full accordance with Schwitters' 'defining principle,' the Merzbau was perpetually unfinished, capable of being worked and reworked repeatedly; formal refinement and artistic containment were anathema to Schwitters' approach to both his life and his art 24. With its labyrinth of associations and inflections, the construction at once responded to the outside world while also remaining wholly removed from it. Representative of the artist's highly individualized cosmology, the Merzbau functioned as a safe harbor from the prevailing chaos of Weimar Germany. Yet it also provided the material for Schwitters' general resistance to the dominant norms of the social, political, and cultural milieu that surrounded him. Countless obstacles make any attempt to decode the form, contents, and meaning of the Merzbau a formidable task. First and foremost, perhaps, is the fact that the project no longer exists. The only evidence of it that remains is the recorded anecdotes of individuals who saw the project, a few brief statements regarding the project by Schwitters himself, and a series of photographs which Schwitters took of the project over a period of several years. These personal anecdotes and photographs - images that Schwitters and his son recorded in a highly unsystematic manner - are the primary literary and physical documents scholars and historians have used to reconstitute the project. 25 Consistent with Schwitters' general approach to all his creative undertakings, there was no 'plan' for the work itself. However, there are rudimentary plans drawn up retrospectively pertaining to the succession of tenants in Waldhauserstrasse, 5, the apartment building Schwitters and his family resided in following his marriage to his wife Helma in 1917, sketches that detail the purported ongoing extensions of Schwitters' residence and atelier from 1919-1937 provide some insight 26. These sketches, found by Dietmar Elger around 1980 and confirmed as accurate by the artist's son, Ernst, are important because they buttress the disputed claims of Hans Richter and others regarding the extent of the construction. 27 Nonetheless, additional plans, sections, and elevations that might specifically detail the architectural dimensions, limits, and contents of the Merzbau, if they ever existed, have been lost.28 Bearing a note describing the project as a "model of a monument to humanity," photographs of the project appeared in a catalogue the 1936-37 New York Museum of Modern Art exhibition entitled "Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism." While the illustrations from the catalogue "only showed sections of the original Merzbau room…by 1936 the Merzbau had expanded so rapidly that it started to sprout through the outer shell of the house (stretching finally) from the 'subterranean to the sky." 29
Other notable exceptions are a description of the project contained in a letter sent to Alfred Barr, Jr. in an attempt to solicit funds for a similar construction in America. In the letter, Schwitters includes a materials list, an estimate of the number of work hours needed to complete a new Merzbau, and a description of the Merzbau, a description that is notable for its outline of the extensiveness of the project:
I am building an abstract...sculpture which people can walk into...I am building a composition without boundaries; each individual part is at the same time a frame for the neighboring parts, all parts are mutually independent.
Another description of Schwitters' project is contained in a letter, supplemented by a plan sketch, the artist wrote to his friends, the publisher Christof Spengemann and his wife Luise on 25 April, 1946. (Fig. 6).30
Eight spaces were merzed in the house. Practically, my Merzbau was not an individual space, but…sections of the Merzbau were distributed over the whole house, from one room to the next, on the balcony, in two spaces in the cellar, on the second floor, on the earth [outside]). 31
Schwitters himself did little to clarify the situation. Later, in the same letter to the Spengemann's, the project is described as extensive and can almost be re-imagined as limitless.
Another problem that surfaces is the fact that Schwitters himself did not seek to expose the project to public scrutiny through either publication or exhibit.32 Despite his penchant for actively promoting not only his own work35, but the work of many friends and colleagues he supported, Schwitters made relatively few published statements regarding the Merzbau. The earliest printed statements concerning the project were in "Ich und meine Ziele." In 1933, photographs of the Merzbau (figs. 1 and 2) were published, approximately ten to twelve years after its probable inception.33 In "Ich und meine Ziele," Schwitters discusses his Kathedrale des Erotischen Elends ("Cathedral of Erotic Misery") when detailing the full range of his work.34 He did not, however, refer to the project as the Merzbau - the title by which it is most well known, until his article "Le Merzbau" appeared in an issue of the short-lived journal abstraction-création, art non-figuratif in 1933 35. Though his brief descriptions of the work and its methodology are significant for outlining the various components of the construction, Schwitters refrains from explaining the myriad literary and historical associations which resonate throughout, suggesting that it would be too complicated to do so. 36 Instead, he leaves the task of interpreting the work to the viewer.
The deliberately private nature of the project further exaggerates the difficulty in comprehending the Merzbau. Schwitters acknowledged the distance between his private self and his public demeanor, specifically as it pertained to the Merzbau, in his first public statement regarding the existence of the project, here referred to as Die Kathedrale of erotischen Elends (KdeE) :
...as a result of its ambiguity (the KdeE) is very difficult to understand...but a complete understanding is not necessary in the case of things that are so unusual. The KdeE is a typical violet that blooms in obscurity. Perhaps my KdeE will always remain in obscurity, but not me...
Adding further credence to his faith in the artistic project in which he had engaged, Schwitters continued with recognition of the importance of Merz and abstraction, albeit with resigned hint of his own fate:
I know for sure that a great day will come for myself and for other important individuals of the abstract movement when we shall influence a whole generation, only I fear that I personally will not live to see the day.
Since the construction was almost entirely contained within the apartment he shared with his wife and son, few people saw it.37 While some of these individuals have contributed significantly to the understanding of the Merzbau, the record of what they saw has often been written many years after having seen the project and is likely inaccurate. In addition, few of these individuals, Richard Huelsenbeck and Ernst Schwitters' being the most notable exceptions, have attempted to speculate on the nature of its content. That the project remained all but hidden from view during the more than thirteen years Schwitters was known to have worked on it is itself remarkable. Not unlike his Dadaist associates Huelsenbeck and Tristan Tzara, he was equally at ease in the world of commerce and publishing as he was in the world of art. The extent of his promotional endeavors suggests that Schwitters was of an uncommon, if ironic, practical bent and, as such, perhaps unmatched among his peers in terms of his business acumen. Yet despite his competence - and considerable confidence - as a businessman and propagandist, Schwitters was reticent to discuss or promote the Merzbau publicly. It was "pure, unsaleable creation," wholly distinct from his manifold and notoriously public activities 38.
In the early-1980's, a reconstruction of the largest and most well documented room of the Hannover Merzbau was installed in the Sprengel Museum in Hannover. While the installation has made a significant contribution to understanding the formal and material nature of the later phases of the work, it does not describe the overall spatial parameters of the Schwitters construction 39. Since the reconstruction depends almost entirely on photographs taken at least seven years after the initial inception of the project, it does not - indeed cannot - incorporate the materials and artifacts that make up the core, or heart, of the Merzbau. While the relative scale of what is thought to be the main room, a room given the subtitle Das Blaue Fenster ("Blue Window") (fig. 1), is established, the way into and through the Merzbau is obscured by the overwhelming sculptural affect of the later developments. The rooms, cavities, and figural excrescence contained within the inner recesses of the Merzbau are all but hidden by the "purist" forms Schwitters used to cover over the Neither can the reconstruction adequately explore the temporal nature of the work. The fact that the Merzbau was developed over the space of a number of years, and that it retained the material residue of its earlier stages, in many ways supercedes the significance of its formal appearance.41 However difficult it may be to assess the exact parameters and meaning of Schwitters' elaborate undertaking, it is still possible to establish a series of readings - some admittedly more speculative than others - that may aid in the understanding of the project. Though Schwitters himself regarded the formal aspects of his art to be of significance, questions surrounding content cannot be wholly disregarded: his philosophical and literary preoccupations, while obscure, clearly resonate throughout the entirety of his artistic productions. Even a cursory review of the literary content of the Merzbau reveals allusions to alchemy, mysticism, hermeticism and romanticism.42
The search for traces of embodied meaning, while important, must be understood to parallel the artist's understanding of the nature of art itself. Eventually, these parallel pursuits became interwoven in Schwitters' artistic universe, evidenced by his dual doctrines of Formung and Entformung (roughly 'forming' and 'deforming'). The way in which Schwitters interpreted the problem of form in the work of art as a dynamic 'metaphysic' of becoming rather than a static end in itself is displayed by his actions as well as the products - all of which could be subject to further 'action' at a later date. Neither anecdotal evidence nor the record of Schwitters' own statements regarding the Merzbau, however useful, can in and of themselves afford meaningfully insight into the project. Initial interpretations of the work as that of a madman are still relevant today, and given Schwitters' success at concealing his motives and subject matter while simultaneously playing at revealing it, the Merzbau remains a highly enigmatic, circumspect work. Yet as John Elderfield, a principle chronicler of Schwitters' life and works, states, the Merzbau "was not the by-product of an amusingly eccentric way of life, but a visually and thematically remarkable, complex and ambitious work of art." 43 Thus Elderfield, rather than marginalizing the project or granting it recognition as a curiosity, understands the work as central to Schwitters' entire artistic oeuvre by suggesting that there are both visual and thematic intentions to the Merzbau and that glimpses of the artist's intentions may no longer be said and therefore 'heard', but can be shown. However, these intentions are displayed in all manner of inconvenience, arrayed like clues in a scavenger hunt that can only be interpreted according to yet another foraging game - a foil consistent with Schwitters' melancholic personality. Found in one constellation of poems or collages, in his letters and publications, in a photograph of the work or a newly unearthed chronology, visual and thematic clues are woven together as threads of a worn tapestry - a tapestry backed by Schwitters' highly personal artistic doctrine - thus revealing elaborate and difficult internal and external associations and references.
These tendencies, coupled with several earnest autobiographical explanations that were at the time radical for their self-exposure, contribute to the rather odd mosaic one is confronted with when viewing the labyrinthine nature of his overall development. Thematic and visual sources are not completely lacking, but seem to go underground, or in the case of the Merzbau, are hidden behind closed doors and ample material and verbal dissembling by the artist himself. Consistent with his regard for art as nature, prominent themes do surface, all of which are found in esoteric spiritual and intellectual traditions. These themes are not historically bound, but remain constant, backgrounded material that resists normative critical speculation. Central to alchemy, hermeticism and the occult arts, they include an emphasis on process (intermittently staged as product), performative autobiography, a-temporal temporality, love and death, disease and decay, melancholy, organic unity, and aesthetic redemption.
Merz, the movement for which Schwitters is known and by far the most significant of his creative episodes, occurred over an extended period of time, from 1919 until his death in 1948. It should be remarked at the outset, however, that Schwitters' Merz was not a movement in the traditional sense (he was the both the progenitor and sole 'member'), but a methodology, or, to put it more exactly, a way of life. While there are aspects of many, if not all, the major avant-garde movements present in Schwitters' work, Merz represented a singular departure from the organizational and collective goals of other avant-garde groups. Admittedly, none of these groups were in themselves a coherent unit, yet they shared certain aims and collaborations. Schwitters was unique in this sense, preferring to forge his own path. To this end, he became a one-man promoter, publisher, and organizer. 44 The public and private aspects of his art, however, were not conceived as separate entities, but as a tightly knit field of endeavors under the general rubric of Merz. Schwitters' revolution was both personal and thematic, contingent on the interface of autobiographical circumstances and the context, or contexts, in which he operated. Materially and thematically dynamic, this interface propelled the ongoing development of Schwitters' unique project for art and life.
Kurt Schwitters' faith in the project of art, in its immediacy and necessity of communication through visual and literary means, suggests a similar mode of inquiry. This is perhaps why he endeavored in so many different media to articulate himself; the normative means by which art and literature operated were, in Schwitters' mind, no longer adequate to the task of representing the true nature of human experience. It is also why he invoked the proposition that art is the result of "strict artistic discipline".45 To him, art was not only a religion and a philosophy; it was a way of life, nothing of which was determined according to discrete categories. Most importantly, however, the production of art, the revelation of the creative capacity and vision of an individual, constituted an ethical imperative; it was a way of life that could not be corrupted by forces or ideas that lay beneath its lofty realm. For Kurt Schwitters, the Merzbau, his Kathedrale des erotischen Elends, was the site of his most extensive and elaborate inquiry into the fundamentals, elements and firmament of his creative endeavors. At once restive and restful, it was the primary residence, the summa theologia, of his living art.
1.The comparison to the Hypnerotomachia is my own, and is largely based on the thematic contents of the original parable. Alberto Peréz-Goméz's most recent book Polyphilo or The Dark Forest Revisited: An Erotic Epiphany of Architecture, (MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992), speaks, albeit in highly eplicit and personal terms, to many of the autobiographical issues present in Schwitters' Die Kathedrale des erotischen Elends. According to Linda Fierz-David, what the Hypnerotomachia relates is a mystery, i.e. it is the story of a mysterious action, which has a secret purpose and in which the miraculous is the natural. See Linda Fierz-David, The Hynerotomachia (New York: Pantheon Books, 1950), p. 2. The relationship between the Hypnerotomachia/Polyphilo and Schwitters' Kathedrale are to be developed in the concluding sections of this book. The comparison of Abbot Suger's Cathedral at St. Denis is suggested by Christian Schneider in a brief article entitled "Schwitters Kathedrale. Eine Perodie," in Kurt Schwitters Almanach, 1983, Postkriptum, herausg. von Michael Erloff (Hannover: Kulturamtes der Stadt Hannover [Postkriptum Verlag], 1983), pp. 26-32.
2.Elysabeth Yates Burns McKee (Gamard), "L'Esthétique de la rédemption: le Merzbau de Kurt Schwitters," FACES: journal d'Architectures, no. 27, spring 1993 (Journal of the University of Geneva) (Genève: l'Université de Genève, 1993), pp. 36-43. See also Dorothea Dietrich, The Collages of Kurt Schwitters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 164-205. For a comparison to John Soane's Museum, see Patricia Falguières, "Désoeuvrement de Kurt Schwitters," in Kurt Schwitters (Paris: Èditions du Centre Pompidou, 1994), pp. 152-159.
3.As Gwendolyn Webster observes, this list of artists is not definitive. Indeed, with each successive generation of artists the individuals and movements that purport to bear Schwitters's influence expands. For a commentary on the impact of Schwitters on contemporary art, see Gwendolyn Webster, Kurt Merz Schwitters: A Biographical Study (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997).
For instance, the Fluxus Movement, of which Beuys and Paik were members at intermittent points in time, modelled itself in large part after the performance pieces of the various Dada soirées (Dada evenings). Performance art and certain aspects of Pop-art also owe a great deal to Schwitters. Schwitters was involved in Dada performances, including the famous Dadarevon which he himself organized. A continuation of the Dada-Constructivist Congress in Weimar (1922), this particular performance was essentially the grand finale of the Dada movement, at least in Germany. Participants included Kurt Schwitters, Hans Arp, Tristan Tzara, Theo van Doesburg, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Höch, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and El Lisstizky. The event also heralded Hannover - and Schwitters - as central components in the avant-garde movement in general. For a brief outline of "Dadarevon," see John Elderfield, Ibid., pp. 124-125. Comments on the relationship between the works of Schwitters and Marcel Broodthaers are discussed in Dieter Schwitters Almanach, 1983, Postkriptum, herausgegeben von Michael Erloff (Hannover: Kulturamtes der Stadt Hannover [Postkriptum Verlag GmbH, Hannover], 1983), pp. 37-49.
4.Ernst Nündel, Ernst Nündel, Kurt Schwitters in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1981), p. 16.
5. A chronicle of the artistic development of Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Hans Arp, and Theo van Doesburg, among others, is consistent with that of Schwitters. However, Schwitters' own artistic development lagged somewhat behind many of his peers, the result of his being situated primarily in Hannover (rather than Berlin, Munich, Cologne, or Paris), as well as the fact that he was a member of the petit-bourgeosie of Hannover and therefore inherently conservative in outlook. Yet Schwitters' perceived conservativism was for the most part a superficial reading of his works and person, as is evidenced by the radical nature of many of his creative productions.
6. The Entartete Kunst exhibition, organized by the RDBK (Reichskammer der bildenden Künst), was put on in conjunction with the 1937 inaugural exhibition of Paul Ludwig Troost's Haus des deutsches Kunst (House of German Art) in Munich. The inaugural exhibition is known as Hitler's "day of German art;" works by artists classified as "degenerate" were displayed in order to explicate the differences between true German art and unGerman (bolshevik, Jewish, Bohemian, et. al.) art. See P.O. Rave's Entartete Kunst (Hamburg, 1949) and Hildegard Brenner's Die Kunstpolitik des Naionalsozialismus (Hamburg, 1963). Barbara Miller Lane discusses the general conditions surrounding Hitler's policies on art and architecture in her book Architecture and Politics in Germany 1918-1945 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985), pp. 125-216. .
7. The full extent of Schwitters's "resistance" activities - as well as the repeated attempts to bring the artist in for interrogation - have only recently come to light. Schwitters suspected for some time that he was being shadowed by the Gestapo and that his incoming and outgoing mail was being screened for information regarding his political activities. While some of this was likely due to his position as an "avant-garde" artist (by definition at odds with the Nazi regime), it was also probable that his associations with noted members of the resistance (his publisher Steegemann's family) and his son's (Ernst Schwitters) refusal to participate in the activities of the Hitler Youth complicated his situation. In addition, Schwitters's mother-in-law's (Eleonora Fisher) vocal support of the Nazi regime coupled with her overt dislike of her son-in-law's approach to art and life probably didn't help matters. See Webster, pp. 249-277.
As noted by Hans Richter, in 1936, Schwitters sent a letter from Hannover, "...in the Nazi Germany in which he was regarded as a 'suspect', a 'cultural Bolshevik' and a 'lunatic'," to his friend and compatriot Tristan Tzara." In the letter, Schwitters informs Tzara of a mysterious "consignment." The consignment, as Tzara later related to their mutual friend Hans Richter, consisted of an album of photographs with a series of microfilms concealed beneath its cover. The microfilms revealed aspects of the true nature of Hitler's Reich, detailing such conditions as ration cards with minimal quantities of food, posters supporting the Reich in tatters around the city, and other aspects of daily life in Hannover that could be relayed through visual means. This documentation, including Schwitters' letter regarding the contents of his 'consignment', was later published by Tzara in the French periodical Regards. Schwitters' ability to veil his true intentions through the appropriation of bureaucratic language, a mark of the German 'resistance', is evident in the official tone of his letter to Tzara: "Dear Herr Tzara: Some days ago I received the news that the consignment despatched at the beginning of April arrived safely. I would now request you on behalf of Herr S. to forward the negatives of the consignment, together with a printed copy, securely packed in a sealed envelope, to our overseas department. The address is: Herre Ch. Iversen, Djupvasshytta ved Geiranger, Norge. He will be at the address indicated from the 3rd until the 8th of July. I would therefore ask you to despatch (sic) the consignment so as to arrive not later than the 8th of July. Please mark the envelope clearly 'via Amsterdam'./Please send the fee for publication to the same address, by postal order, before the 8th of July./As and when it is possible to assemble a new consignment, we shall naturally forward it to you. I am sure that you appreciate the difficulties that this work entails./With my sincere gratitude in advance for you assistance, I remain with very best wishes Overseas Department ." As Richter later observed, if Schwitters intentions had been revealed, "…he would certainly have been sent to a concentration camp…He was literally risking his life - but he had not forgotten the fee for publication!" See Hans Richter, Dada: art and anti-art, trans. David Britt (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1965), p. 153-154. This incident is also cited in Webster, p. 269.
8.Schwitters' agitation against the Nazi regime was not affiliated with any organized political resistance, yet he did speak out against the fascists when the opportunity presented itself. One of the more interesting anecdotes regarding Schwitters' resistance to Nazi propaganda and the suppression of modern ("bolshevik," "Jewish," and/or "unGerman") art is recorded by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy. While the full text of her statement is too extensive to quote in full, I have included it in the appendix for reference. See also Robert Motherwell, edit. Dada Painters and Poets (New York: Wittenborn Art Books, 1981), pp. xxix-xxx. The original quotation is contained in Sibyl Moholy-Nagy's book on her husband entitled Moholy-Nagy .
9.Though pursued by their own government, both Kurt and Ernst Schwitters were still classified as German nationals and therefore held 'under suspicion' and without the necessary papers. The course of their various internments and intermittent separations, as well as information regarding the nature of the various camp facilities (including the famous Hutchison Camp on the Isle of Man, the site of the extraordinary Hutchinson University) is outlined in Webster, pp.307-324.
10.See Werner Schmalenbach, Kurt Schwitters (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1967). p. 7.
11. Walter Benjamin (1931), cit. Richard Wolin, Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), p. ix. .
12. Elgar's discussion of the Merzbau focuses on the social and cultural context of Wilhelmine Germany and the aftermath of World War One, with a specific emphasis on Hannover. Dietrich's analysis, contained in a chapter of her book entitled The Collages of Kurt Schwitters, aligns the project with Walter Benjamin's study of allegory in the Trauerspiel. My own previous work on the subject has looked at the Merzbau in terms of Walter Benjamin's Passagen-Werk. See Dietmar Elger, Der Merzbau. Eine Werkmonographie (Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter König, 1984) and Dorothea Dietrich, The Collages of Kurt Schwitters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp.182-183
There have also been smaller articles speculating on the genesis and organization of the Merzbau's content, including Patricia Falguières "Désoeuvrement de Kurt Schwitters (Idleness of Kurt Schwitters)" in the catalogue accompanying a recent exhibition of Kurt Schwitters ouevre at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. See Kurt Schwitters (Paris: Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 1994), pp. 152-159. An article by Dietmar Elger chronicling the three Merzbauen is also contained within the catalogue ("L'ouevre d'une vie: les Merzbau," pp. 140-151). One cannot overlook the extent to which Ernst Schwitters has contributed to our understanding of the contents and extent of the Merzbau. Ernst Schwitters has published numerous short articles pertaining to the work, including "Der Merzbau oder die Kathedrale des erotischen Elend (KdeE)" in Collages, Kurt Schwitters (catalogue d'exposition), Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 1971, pp. 16-17.
13.Gwendolyn Webster, Kurt Merz Schwitters: A Biographical Study (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997).
14. Uta Brandes, "Merzbau im Biedermeier: Die Kathedrale des erotischen Elends," in Kurt Schwitters Almanach 1982: Postkriptum ((Hannover: Kulturamtes der Stadt Hannover [Postkriptum Verlag GmbH, Hannover], 1983), pp. 39-54. In "Merzbau im Biedermeier," Brandes discusses both Schwitters personal relationship to objects in light of the Biedermeier period, and the intrinsic relationship of the Merzbau to other significant 'architectural' objects, including Etienne-Louis Boulée's "Cenotaph for Newton" (c. 1780), Richard Wagner's facade painting "Haus Wahnfried" (1873/74) (on a building by the architect Von Wölfel), Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building (New York, 1954-58), Vladimir Tatlin's "Tower for the 3rd International," (1920), and Johannes Baader's.sculpture "Dio Dada Drama" (1920). Brandes' article on Schwitters relationship to the various women in his life, including his wife, Helma, and friends Käte Steinitz (with whom he collaborated on selected projects), Nelly (Petro) van Doesburg (wife of the architect Theo van Doesburg), and Wantee, his mistress and nurse in England, discusses the intersection of these personal liaisons in both his work and personal life. See Uta Brandes, "Helma, Wantee, Käte, Nelly, Suze, Arren und andere," in Kurt Schwitters Almanach Nummer 9: Postkriptum ( ), pp. 71-118. Pages 91-118 include selected letters by Schwitters to various of his female acquaintances, thereby buttressing Brandes' claims of "distanced eroticism." The final section of her article, entitled "Erotisches Elend und reine Form (Erotic misery and perfect form)," is discussed at a later point in this book. The entire issue of Kurt Schwitters Almanach Nummer 9: Postskriptum (Hannover: Kulturamtes der Stadt Hannover [Postkriptum Verlag GmbH, Hannover], 1990), is devoted to Schwitters relationship to "Frauen. (women.)" Articles include those by Hans Freudenthal, a correspondent of Schwitters during the 1940's; and Kaus E. Hinrichsen. Gwendolen Webster details the specifics of Schwitters' manifold relationships throughout her biography on the artist.
15. Janice Schall, "Rhythm and Art in Germany," 1900-1930 (PhD. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1989). While Schall's text is a more general account of the influences of Nietzsche's works on German art during the early part of the twentieth-century, she does provide a compelling account of Schwitters' Dada-Merz work (pp. 260-277).
16. Annegreth Nill, "Decoding Merz," (PhD. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1990). Nill's book deals specifically with the early years of Merz, concentrating on the small Merz-bilder (Merz-collages) developed by Schwitters over a period five years (1918-1923).
17. The notion of a Merzkunstwerk is an obvious play on the Romantic-Expressionist notion of a Gesamtkunstwerk (Total work of art), an idea that originates with Richard Wagner and continues to inform the imagination of German artists and architects throughout the course of the early- and, in some cases, mid-twentieth century.
18. Marc Dachy, Kurt Schwitters MERZ: Ecrits choisis et presentes par Marc Dachy (Paris: Éditions Gérard Lebovici, 1990), p. 26. As Dachy remarks, Murayama, a member of the Berlin Dadaist organization, returned to Japan in 1923, where he concentrated mainly on choreography and theatre. See. fn9, p. 26. As Gwendolen Webster asserts in her biographical study of Schwitters, attempts to create spatial environments were not uncommon during the teens and twenties of the 20th century. Several of these installations were certainly familiar to Schwitters, in particular those by Lissitsky and a fellow German artist, Erich Buchholz. See Gwendolen Webster, Kurt Merz Schwitters: A Biographical Study (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997), pp. 209.Perhaps the best text in English regarding Plecnik's plan and phased construction for the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana is Peter Krecic, Plecnik: The Complete Works (London: Academy Editions, 1993), pp.53-160. With respect to Schwitters' impulse to pursue the transhistorical (the conflation of all successive "periods of art" in search of a primal whole), it is interesting to note the assertion of Plecnik's "two-sidedness" and the "playing of both strings" by the architectural historian Nace Sumi. See Krecic, Ibid., pp. 7-11, However, it is through my own travels to Ljubljana that I suggest the potential relationship between Schwitters and Plecnik, despite the unlikelihood of their direct, or even indirect, association. Though not stated as such, the project constitutes an autobiographical array that may be regarded as transhistorical - an interesting, if as yet undeveloped - parallel to Schwitters Merzbau. In addition, Max Ernst's collection of mural paintings (1923) for a house in the suburbs of Paris (Eaubonne) owned by the surrealists Max and Gala Eluard, are also filled with allegorical and hermeneutic symbolism. Ernst's paintings are discussed at some length in William A. Camfield's book, Max Ernst: Dada and the Dawn of Surrealism (Munich: Prestal-Verlag, 1993), pp. 1239-146. .
19Kurt Schwitters, "Ich und meine Ziele," in Das literarishe Werk, Bd. 5, p. 343. "Ausserdem ist sie unfertig, und zwar aus Prinzip." .
21. Rudi Fuchs, Conflicts with Modernism or the Absence of Kurt Schwitters (orig. published as Konflikte mit dem Modernismus oder die Abwesenheit von Kurt Schwitters), (Bern: Verlag Gachnang und Springer, 1991), pp. 19-21.
22. Annegreth Nill, Decoding Merz, PhD. Dissertation conducted at the University of Texas - Austin, submitted 1990, p. 4.
23.Hans Richter, Ibid., pp. 152-153.
.24. Kurt Schwitters, "Ich und meine Zeile," Ibid., p. 343. "Ausserdem ist sie unfertig, und zwar aus Prinzip." .
25. The last photographs of the Merzbau were taken by Ernst Schwitters after his father had already fled to Norway.
26. For a description of the transformations of Schwitters' residence and the development of his atelier, see Dietmar Elger, "Die Enstehung des Merzbaus," in Kurt Schwitters Almanach 1982: Postkriptum, edit. Michael Erloff, (Hannover: Kulturamtes der Stadt Hannover [Postkriptum Verlag], 1982), pp. 28-38. The original diagrams are contained in the Stadtarchiv Hannover. In a letter to Hannah Höch, written in January of 1934 shortly before she died of cancer, Helma Schwitters wrote that the 'Merzbau müsse nun ein weiteres Zimmer vor dem Atelier gerumt werden. Schwitters wich auf den Balkon aus, der für diesen Zweck vollständig verglast wurde. Von dort aus wuchs der Merzbaus weister, gleichzeitig enstehen Ableger auch an anderen Stelle.' However, a letter Schwitters wrote to his friend Christof Spengemann on the 18th of August, 1946 suggests the extent of the project: "Mein Merzbau war praktische nicht ein einzelner Raum, sondern über das ganze Haus verteilt (....)." Continuing, Schwitters states that "Telie des Merzbaues waren im Nebenraum, auf dem Balkon, in 2 Raumen des Kellers, in der 2. Etage, auf dem Boden." On the occasion of his visit to the site of the Merzbau as a guest of Helma Schwitters (8-9 October, 1943), Professor Doktor Hans Freudenthal writes; "Der Verbindung stellten einige Vermerzungen im Treppenhaus her." This latter statement was communicated to Dietmar Elger in a letter written to Elger on May 31, 1982, in anticipation of the reconstruction of the Hannover Merzbau in the Sprengel Museum - Hannover. Nonetheless, the actual parameters of the Merzbau continue to be in dispute.
27. Cited by Elderfield, p. 146. (fn Elger, 712). On page 155, Elderfield cites Ernst Schwitters recollection of the central room of the Merzbau, a room containing the column described as Die Kathedrale des erotischen Elends (The Cathedral of Erotic Misery), a title Schwitters eventually used to describe the entire project.
28. Schwitters did attempt to outline the extent of the Hannover Merzbau in a crude plan sketch he sent to Museum of Modern Art Director Albert Barr, Sr. during the 1940's. The letter was a request for grant monies to aid in a reconstruction of the piece.
29. Webster, p. 270, cit. Elderfield, p.157. Alfred Barr, Jr., at the time the Director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, "turned up unannounced on the Schwitters' doorstep in June 1935 (and) ensured that Merz was represented in two of the museum's exhibitions, "Cubism and Abstract Art" and the mentioned "Frantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism." .
30. Letter to A. Barr, 23 November 1936, quoted in John Elderfield, Kurt Schwitters, London 1985, p. 156; cited in Webster, p. 284.
31. Briefe, p. 230 and p.246, cited in Nündel, p.57-8 (translated by Gamard)..
32. In the late-1920's, Schwitters stated that only three individuals could understand the constitution and ideas of the Merzbau: the Sturm critic Herwarth Walden, the architectural historian Sigfried Giedion, and the artist Hans Arp (note that he refers to the Merzbau as a column, or Säule, in this particular quote): "Ich kenne nur 3 Menschen, von denen ich annehme, dass sie mich in meiner Säule restlos verstehen werden" Herwarth Walden, Doktor S. Giedion und Hanns Arp (sic)." See Kurt Schwitters, "Ich und meine Zeile," in Das literarishe Werk, Bd. 5, p. 345. However, he also made mention in another text associated with the Merzbau that the art critic F. Vordemberge-Gildewart and his friend Käte Steinitz were also able to access the work.
33. The first reproductions of the piece appeared in the magazine G, published by Hans Richter, Mies van der Rohe, and Werner Graeff (no. 3). Two reproductions also appeared in the no. 2 issue of the magazine abstraction-création-art non-figuratif, published in the same year.Kurt
34. Schwitters, "Ich und meine Zeile," Ibid., pp. 344-345. The dates of the project are somewhat slippery. It is likely that Schwitters began to intuitively construct what was to become the Merzbau as early as 1920 -21. However, he dates the formal inception of the project from 1923. The photographs which were published in 1933 were of the 'constructivist' phase of the Merzbau. However, Schwitters had previously published images of earlier aspects of the project, though not under the general rubric 'Merzbau'. Merz 21. erstes Veilchenheft was essentially an autobiographical sketch of his overall artistic development. It was also one of the last issues of his journal.
35. Kurt Schwitters, "Le Merzbau," in Das literarishe Werke, Bd. 5, p. 354. .
36. Kurt Schwitters, "Ich und meine Zeile," Ibid., p. 346.'Ich und meine Ziele', LW 5, p. 344. Cited in Webster, p. 238.
37.Schwitters claimed that only close friends and "those who would understand it" were introduced to the Merzbau - usually after one of the "soirées" he held at his home.
38. Hans Richter, Ibid., p. 152.
39. Notes and articles on the reconstruction of the Merzbau for a 1987 exhibition on Kurt Schwitters by the Sprengel Museum in Hannover are contained in the catalogue for the exhibition, entitled Kurt Schwitters (Hannover: Landeshaupt-Hannover, Der Oberstadtdirektor Sprengel-Museum Hannover, 1987).
40. Dietmar Elgar, "L'oeuvre d'une vie: les Merzbau," in Kurt Schwitters (Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1994), p. 145. Hans Richter suggests that the "constructivist" phase of Schwitters construction was becoming progressively more fluid ("curvilinear") in nature over the course of time. This observation is notable given the fact that Schwitters' later editions of the Merzbauen in Norway and England are much more organic than the 'constructivist-purist' phase noted by other individuals who visited the project. These developments lend further credence to the notion that the Hannover Merzbau was a work in progress. As such, it was guided by a process that enabled Schwitters' to initiate his later editions based on the assumption that they were not entirely new constructions, but represented a continuation of the process itself. The most complete outline of the later Merzbauen is contained in Dietmar Elger's article for the Pompidou exhibition (Ibid.). See Hans Richter, Ibid. p. 153.
41. The text which accompanied the opening of the reconstruction of Schwitters Hannover Merzbau did, however, aid in the understanding of the social and political context for the project. See Dietmar Elger, Der Merzbau: Eine Werkmonographie (Walter König: Cologne, 1984).
42.Resurfacing in what are considered to be romantic periods in the history of human culture and often used interchangeably, the terms alchemy (including alchemical processes), mysticism and hermeticism refer to the esoteric or occult arts, alchemy and hermeticism represent medieval chemical sciences and speculative philosophy aimed at achieving the transmutation of one material into another. Mysticism, often designated according to specific religious or ethnic practices such as "nature mysticism" or Russian mysticism, at once suggests both a generalized and highly specific approach to achieving a direct communion with an ultimate reality. This 'direct communion' can be physical (sexual), cognitive, and/or spiritual in nature and is often times unsanctioned by religious authority due to its being based in individual rather than collective experience. It has been likened by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience as reminiscent of an alcoholic or drug-induced experience of wholeness or oneness ('an anaesthetic revelation') whereupon the one (an individual) is effaced as a singular entity, becoming instead part of a universal or cosmic flow in direct communion with God. The liberative and decidedly brief nature of mystical experience - a condition described as immersive, oceanic, transient, ineffable and noetic in literature associated with the subject - is suggested by Schwitters' equation of art and religious immersion in his proclamation that "the immersion in art, like the immersion in religious faith, liberates man from the worries of daily life." According to James, mystic states are also marked by their contradictory nature, contradictions which abound in not only Schwitters' work but in the works of others who have played with 'dreamy states' and 'mystical consciousness'. It is perhaps no accident that the both the prescription for and result of a melancholic disposition was an embrace of alternative states of consciousness - in particular states that would alter the existential dissociation attributed to melancholy and, even more pertinent in Schwitters' case, epileptic seizures. See James, pp. 322-26. Quotes from a biography on J.A. Symonds (1895) are illuminating: "Often I have asked myself with anguish, on waking from that formless state of denuded, keenly sentient being, Which is the unreality?-the trance of fiery, vacant, apprehensive, skeptical Self from which I issue, or these surrounding phenomena and habits which veil that inner Self and build a self of flesh-and-blood conventionality? Again, are men the factors of some dream, the dream-like unsubstantiality of which they comprehend at such eventful moments? What would happen if the final stage of the trance were reached?" Despite innumerable attempts to describe mystical states of consciousness, it is important to recognize the inadequacy of language.
43. Elderfield, p. 156. .
44. Schwitters promotions and publications were not only limited to his self-assigned Merz project, but extended into any endeavor he believed mainained an abiding faith in the paramount project of art. Thus, he could include artists as diverse as Mondrian, Van Doesburg, Hannah Höch, El Lissitzky, Raoul Haussman, Tristan Tzara, and Hans Arp, while at the same time excluding those individuals he felt were corrupted by extrinsic agendas such as Richard Huelsenbeck. Nonetheless, it is clear that he included many more artists than he excluded.
45. Elderfield, p. 27. Schwitters' simple declaration of Merz is as follows: "Merz stands for freedom from all fetters, for the sake of artistic creation. Freedom is not lack of restraint, but the product of strict artistic discipline." This statement originally appeared in Schwitters article entitled "Merz" which was published in Der Ararat (1920). It is republished in LW -5, p.76.
In: Kurt Schwitters Merzbau: The Cathedral of Erotic Misery. Princenton, 2000. pp. 1-18.