Today the Guardian published a story about the fact that the Merzbarn has had its funding cut, and may have to close as a place for visitors to come and see the last work of the mercurial Dadaist Kurt Schwitters.
I’ve never been to the Merzbarn, but I’ve never been to Cumbria at all.
Schwitters was a Dadaist and as such a radical rejector of systems and institutions of the state,and of the art supported and promoted by those states and instituons . Hugo Ball once said that “art is not an end in itself … but it is an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in.”
My feeling is that we get the art that we deserve. if we as a culture do not have it in us to value and learn from Schwitters and Merz, then let us not fetishize his works, let us allow them to drift back into the soil from whence they came.
It is interesting that with all of the filthy, corrupt venal and putrid money coming into art from the most vilest and most loathsome sources *, none of it makes its way to preserving stuff like the Merzbarn. Amusing to see the most prominent and wealthiest artists in the country donating their “ARTWORK” to be sold to raise funds (don’t dig into your pocket or anything) but no involvement, no speaking out.
Perhaps that’s as it should be. Schwitters and the Dada were really radical, oppositionists. They hated the filth and brutality of the world they found themselves in. They used art to express this rejection, worked toward new ways of seeing and thinking. Dada was anti-bourgeois and radical. The fact that it spawned lots of unradical, art school wank in the late C20th is immaterial.
After the Great War, Schwitters wrote that “Everything had broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments; and this is Merz. It was like a revolution within me, not as it was, but as it should have been.”
*e.g. raping national resources and impoverishing the people; arms manufacturing and dealing; hedge fund exploitation; manufacturing and marketing poisons etc. Makes the Medici and the Sforza look like fuzzy kitties.