Conor McGarrigle gives a general introduction to Kurt Schwitters' seminal Hannover Merzbau

Kurt Schwitters is best known for his collages and assemblages and for his association with the dada art movement in the 1920's and thirties. But his most important work is less well known.  Starting in the 1920's and continuing until he fled Germany in 1936 he constructed an enormously ambitious work of art in his Hannover home.  The Hannover Merzbau was a vast architectural construction. There is no doubt that he was influenced by the constructivist concept of the total environment where the architecture, furniture, art etc of a room are integrated to create the total arrangement and structure of the space. In 1921 his friend the constructivist artist Erich Buchholz had transformed the interior of his Berlin appartment in this fashion.

Schwitters undoubtedly saw, and was influenced by this. However he went a little further.

Ernst Schwitters, his son, has said that it started with his father's interest in the relationship between the pictures he hung on the walls and the sculptures on the floor. He started by tying strings to emphasis these interactions. These in turn became wires, then were replaced by wooden structures which, in turn, were joined with plaster. The merzbau grew and grew, eventually filling several rooms on various floors of the house.

As the construction grew grottos and caves appeared in it's internal space, each of which had their own independant life. These grottos were often very personal and almost fetishtic, with many being devoted to his friends. These are mentioned in many contemporary accounts as he often stole his friends belongings to fill these.


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