Sticks Stones and Bones

Sticks, Stones and Bones, Installation view, The Futureless Memory, Hamburg Kunsthaus, 2020

In 1937, the German Avantgarde artist Kurt Schwitters (1887, Hannover – 1948, Kendal) emigrated to Norway, escaping to Britain when the Nazis entered Norway 1940. His famous, mythic Merzbau, which occupied eight rooms in his house in Hannover, was bombed in 1943. He spent his final years in the UK, first in an internment camp, and later in Lake District, where he made his last Merz piece in an abandoned barn. In 1960s, the Merzbarn was discovered by Richard Hamilton and moved to a safe location at Newcastle University.

Sticks, Stones and Bones is based on the last seven years that Kurt Schwitters spent in British exile. The installation combines videos and sculptural interventions with archival materials from the Schwitters archive in Hannover, and the Tate Britain, amongst others. The documents draw attention to the time he spent in the internment camp on the Isle of Man between 1940 and 1941 with many fellow artists, poets, and intellectuals who had fled Nazi Germany. Within this community they organized a cultural program of lectures, exhibitions, and performances for the Internees.

The installation is complemented by photographs of pages from a notebook that Schwitters kept just before he died. Convinced that none of his poetry had survived the Nazis, he tried to rewrite all his poems from memory. Many pages are numbered but not completed due to his deteriorating health. The mostly empty pages interrelate with elements from the colors of the landscape of the Lake District through found materials, as well as the videos that respond to Schwitters’s use of materials such as bones, stones and plaster. For a time, he also used porridge provided in the internment camp as a material for his sculptures, though there is no evidence of these works available. However, his fellow inmates in the camp mentioned the smell of the rotten porridge coming from his room. Other sculptures he made in the Lake District later on are made from bones that he first gave to dogs to gnaw on.

Sticks, Stones and Bones, Installation view, The Futureless Memory, Hamburg Kunsthaus, 2020

Sticks, Stones and Bones

3 videos, prints on paper, tablecloth, archival documents


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