Chicken, P’s & Q’s: An Art Practice-based Enquiry into the Networks and Migrating Motifs of the German Avant-garde Artist, Kurt ‘Merz’ Schwitters
Jackie Haynes (University of Cumbria)
Wednesday 5 May 2021 2-4 pm on Teams
Please write to S.Thurston@salford.ac.uk if you would like to join us!
‘Merz’ is the neologism coined by Kurt Schwitters for his artistic and literary works produced between 1919 and 1948. From his hometown of Hannover, Germany, Schwitters travelled and expanded his network of friends and collaborators around Europe and formed connections with the New York avant-garde. After the collapse of the Weimar Republic, Schwitters’ Merz had become an exemplar of the National Socialist’s “degenerate art” smear campaign, forcing him to relocate to Norway and eventually becoming exiled in the English Lake District.
Exploring Schwitters’ Merz in the context of the multiple and overlapping avant-garde collectives that he was involved in, reveals the ebbing and flowing of mutual support and ideas. New perspectives with contemporary resonance challenge an overemphasis of Merz as a strictly autonomous and solitary ‘one-man art movement’ by re-focussing outwards to acknowledge collective influence. Similarly, under-emphasis on the lesser-known works from Schwitters’ oeuvre omits connectivity in an otherwise illuminating tracing of motifs, wordplay, artistic methods and principles.
This illustrated paper navigates aspects of Schwitters’ connection to Dada and De Stijl. With reference to collaborative performances (see image), I trace Schwitters’ alliance with Theo van Doesburg to literary aliases, I.K. Bonset and Aldo Camini, the Dada novelist, Melchior Vischer. I also find resonance between Schwitters and poet and artist Mina Loy, particularly in the American avant-garde magazine, The Little Review, founded by Margaret Anderson. The collaborative performance, Dinner for Three devised with fellow Schwitters researcher and artist, Heather Ross, is based on Dinner for One, the British comedy of manners sketch which is popular viewing on New Year’s Eve in Germany and other European countries. As an effect of this performance, I trace Schwitters’ typographical play the letters ‘p’ and ‘q’ which feature in his Merz journal publication Merz 2. Nummer i (April 1923).
Jackie Haynes is an artist and art practice-based researcher in the final stages of a doctoral study of selected aspects of German artist Kurt Schwitters’ legacy, often referred to as ‘Merz,’ the neologism associated with his literary and artistic output. Jackie has a textiles background and founded House of Haynes, a costume design, manufacture, hire and wholesale business, which ran for 17 years in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. She returned to education in 2012 to study MA Textiles at Manchester Metropolitan University, where an interest in Kurt Schwitters, Merz and its associations with Dada began. Her PhD enquiry examines Schwitters’ Merz principles and the motifs which migrate across his artistic and literary forms and the avant-garde networks, particularly De Stijl and Dada, which nourished his work. email@example.com // https://jackiehaynesartwork.wordpress.com
Grundy, T. & Luke, M. (2021) Myself and My Aims: The Critical Writing of Kurt Schwitters. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Vichnar, D., König Tim. (2015) Second Through Brain. (Sekunde Durch Hirn by Melchior Vischer first published 1920). Prague: Equus Press.
Vischer, M. (1920) Sekunde Durch Hirn. Available at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/32814/32814-h/32814-h.htm (Accessed: 4th December, 2020).
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Van Doesburg, T. & White, M. (2006) What is Dada??? London: Atlas Press.