Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau
The Cathedral of Erotic Misery, Building Studies 5
German artist Kurt Schwitters' Hannover Merzbau, a combination of collage, sculpture, and architecture, began, according to Schwitters, in 1923 with a small construction in a corner of the artist's studio, a room contained within the apartment he shared with members of his family. Also called "The Cathedral of Erotic Misery" or KdeE, the project eventually took over many of the spaces of his living quarters, filling the rooms with grottoes and caves dedicated to friends, artists, and cultural events. Left unfinished when Schwitters fled Hannover in early 1938, the Merzbau was completely destroyed during an Allied bombing raid over Hannover in 1943.
While the project is usually listed as a marginal episode in the annals of Modern art and architecture, the Merzbau is of seminal importance in understanding the complex relationships between several European Avant-garde movements, including Expressionism, Dada, Constructivism, and Merz, the one-man movement Schwitters insisted was available to anyone. The project also provides information supporting the belief that artists such as Joseph Beuys and Robert Rauschenberg consciously extend the project of Merz.
In delving into Schwitters' creative 'principles,' as well as the influences of prominent artists and architects on the Merzbau and vice versa, Elizabeth Burns Gamard discusses the project's physical evolution, its hidden meanings, and its significance within the artist's entire oeuvre. She also focusses on the relationship between Schwitters' ideas and those of German nature mysticism and German Romanticism, thus providing an extensive genealogy of the project as well.
Like the other titles in our series (Casa Malaparte, The Danteum, Park Guell), Kurt Schwitters Merzbau offers an in-depth analysis of a single structure through original documents, drawings, and critical examination of the design process.