Manchester-wide programme of exhibitions, installations, talks, films, performances celebrating the creative legacy of German artist Kurt Schwitters in the North West.

Internationally acclaimed during the 30s as a Dada artist, sculptor, architect, poet, writer, performance artist, typographer, and avant-garde musician, Schwitters was proscribed by the Nazis, and forced into exile, first in Norway and from 1940 on in Britain.

Schwitters invented his own term 'MERZ' to cover all these forms, the most advanced of which was the 'Merzbau' or Merz Building that he constructed in his studio (which happened to be in his parents' middle-class home in suburban Hanover), an amazing post-Cubist structure that was destroyed by an allied bombing raid in 1943, and survives only in the set of three archive photographs taken in 1933. This work had had, both in its own day and up to the present, an incredible influence on architects, artists throughout Europe and America.

Arriving in Edinburgh in 1940 at the height of the WWII spy scare, Schwitters was briefly held in detention Warth Mill before going into internment on the Isle of Man. In 1944, after the war, Schwitters and the English partner he had met in London moved to Ambleside. There they made a precarious living from Schwitters' portraits and landscapes, painted in the style in which he had originally been trained, but for his own pleasure he continued with the mixed media collages for which he is now again famed.

In 1946, at the age of 60, Schwitters met Harry Pierce, owner of the Cylinders estate in the beautiful Langdale Valley just outside the village of Elterwater. He painted Pierce's portrait, and rented from him a small shed that he re-named the Merz Barn, determined before he died to create one final new Merzbau, the summation of his life's work. The installation created by Schwitters in the Merz Barn during 1947, despite being unfinished at the time of his death, and the importance of the time he spent in England, have left a lasting legacy in the North West, many aspects of which will be explored during the MERZMAN Festival.











 

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