It is sometimes described as a fourth Merzbau, although Schwitters himself only ever referred to three. The interior has now been removed and will eventually be exhibited in the Romsdal Museum in Molde, Norway. The poem was influenced by Raoul Hausmann's poem "fmsbw" which Schwitters heard recited by Hausmann in Prague, Schwitters first performed the piece on 14 February at the home of Irmgard Kiepenheuer in Potsdam.
He subsequently performed it regularly, both developing and extending it. He published his notations for the recital in the last Merz periodical in , although he would continue to develop the piece for at least the next ten years. As the political situation in Germany under the Nazis continued to deteriorate throughout the s, his work began to be included in the Entartete Kunst Degenerate Art touring exhibition organised by the Nazi party from He lost his contract with Hanover City Council in and examples of his work in German museums were confiscated and publicly ridiculed in By the time his close friends Christof and Luise Spengemann and their son Walter were arrested by the Gestapo in August the situation had clearly become perilous.
On 2 January Schwitters, wanted for an "interview" with the Gestapo, fled to Norway to join his son Ernst, who had already left Germany on 26 December His wife Helma decided to remain in Hanover, to manage their four properties. In the same year, his Merz pictures were included in the Entartete Kunst exhibition titled in Munich, making his return impossible. The joint celebrations for his mother Henriette's 80th birthday and his son Ernst's engagement, held in Oslo on 2 June , would be the last time the two met. Schwitters started a second Merzbau while in exile in Lysaker nearby Oslo, in but abandoned it in when the Nazis invaded; this Merzbau was subsequently destroyed in a fire in For decades this building was more or less left to rot, but measures have now been taken to preserve the interior.
When Nazi Germany invaded Norway, after a short period of internment by Norwegian authorities on the Lofoten Islands, Schwitters fled to Leith, Scotland with his son and daughter-in-law on the patrol vessel Fridtjof Nansen between 8 and 18 June By now officially an 'enemy alien', he was moved between various internment camps in Scotland and England before arriving on 17 July in Hutchinson Camp in the Isle of Man. The camp was situated in a collection of terraced houses around Hutchinson Square in Douglas.
The camp soon comprised some 1, internees by end of July , almost all of whom were German or Austrian. In this environment, Schwitters was popular as a character, a raconteur and as an artist. He was soon provided studio space and took on students, many of whom would later become significant artists in their own right. He produced over works during his internment, including more portraits than at any other time in his career, many of which he charged for. He contributed at least two portraits to the second art exhibition within the camp in November , and in December he contributed in English to the camp newsletter, The Camp.
A musty, sour, indescribable stink which came from three Dada sculptures which he had created from porridge, no plaster of Paris being available. The porridge had developed mildew and the statues were covered with greenish hair and bluish excrements of an unknown type of bacteria. Schwitters was well-liked in the camp and was a welcome distraction from the internment they were suffering. Fellow internees would later recall fondly his curious habits of sleeping under his bed and barking like a dog, as well as his regular Dadaist readings and performances.
However, the epileptic condition which had not surfaced since his childhood began to recur whilst in the camp. For the outside world he always tried to put up a good show, but in the quietness of the room I shared with him [ Schwitters applied as early as October for release with the appeal written in English: "As artist, I can not be interned for a long time without danger for my art" , but he was refused even after his fellow internees began to be released.
But all things are equal. If I stay here, then I have plenty to occupy myself. If I am released, then I will enjoy freedom. If I manage to leave for the U. You carry your own joy with you wherever you go. Schwitters was finally released on 21 November , with the help of an intervention from Alexander Dorner, Rhode Island School of Design.
After obtaining his freedom Schwitters moved to London, hoping to make good on the contacts that he had built up over his period of internment. He first moved to an attic flat at 3 St. Stephen Crescent, Paddington, London. It was here that he met his future companion, Edith Thomas:. He called her Wantee, because she was always offering tea.
He exhibited in a number of galleries in the city but with little success; at his first solo exhibition at The Modern Art Gallery in December , forty works were displayed, priced between 15 and 40 guineas, but only one was bought. Pictures such as Small Merzpicture With Many Parts , for example, used objects found on a beach, including pebbles and smooth shards of porcelain. In October he learnt that his Merzbau in Hanover had been destroyed in allied bombing.
In April he suffered his first stroke, at the age of 56, which left him temporarily paralyzed on one side of his body. His wife Helma died of cancer on 29 October , although Schwitters only heard of her death in December. He moved there permanently on 26 June , to 2 Gale Crescent Ambleside.
However, after another stroke in February of the following year and further illness, he and Edith moved to a more easily accessible house at 4 Millans Park. In March , Schwitters decided to recreate the Merzbau and found a suitable location in a barn at Cylinders Farm, Elterwater, which was owned by Harry Pierce, whose portrait Schwitters had been commissioned to paint. Instead he used it for the "Merzbarn" in Elterwater. Schwitters worked on the Merzbarn daily, travelling the five miles between his home and the barn, except for when illness kept him away.
On 7 January he received the news that he had been granted British citizenship. The following day, on 8 January, Schwitters died from acute pulmonary edema and myocarditis, in Kendal Hospital. He was buried on 10 January at St. Mary's Church, Ambleside. The stone remains as a memorial even though his body was disinterred and reburied in the Engesohde Cemetery in Hanover in , the grave being marked with a marble copy of his sculpture Die Herbstzeitlose. The actual name of the bank was Kommerz- und Privatbank.
Merz work exhibited throughout Germany. Designed and edited Die Merzmappe , Merz no. Designed advertisements for Bahlsen , Pelikan. By : received typographic commissions from industrial clients and Hannover City Council. Helms , exh. January end of : Merzwerbezentrale designed all printed matter for Hannover City Council see below: D. Webster , , pp. From : spent more time in Norway which he had first visited in There, in a small Norwegian village, we met this blond, blue-eyed refugee from Germany. At a gathering of artists he had been asked, possibly as a test of loyalty, to comment on newly painted portraits of Hitler and of Goebbels.
A courageous teen-aged son [Ernst, born ], who would not join the Hitler Youth Movement was with him, and he had brought out with him also a few of his paintings.
These he was offering for sale…. Indeed, he was soon to become a fugitive once more; as Germany marched into Norway , he escaped over stormy seas to England on the icebreaker Fritjof Nansen. April : Nazis invaded Norway. Not only was he a world famous artist but he also was [a] most fascinating raconteur and could keep a full house entertained for hours. On the other hand, Merz, using himself as a sensitive needle, tries to draw a map in which the archetypes of the individual's feeling and living solidify as they move through differentiated territories. Thus, art for Merz is not a narrative; rather, it bears witness to an instantaneousness of time, which can last for days or even months: in a field or in the city of Pisa.
Hence, the absence of any swift, rapid gestures that pour or trace signs on a canvas, a la Pollock and Lucio Fontana; instead, we find an obsessive repetition of a linear and chromat- ic drawing that tends to stop only "towards sundown. The resulting cartography is neither the fabulous and monstrous sensuality of a female body, again as in Dubuffet and de Kooning, nor the political tragedy of Fau- trier or the anguished signs of Francis Bacon; instead, we have a flow of utterly undiscriminated color: a tangle of existen- tial waves, in which Merz takes refuge - a habitat.
When the latter becomes three- dimensional, the term for defining it is the igloo. A final element distinguishes Merz from the artists of Informel and Action Painting: the fusion of the body of the artifice with the canvas is never disrupted. The contact is given not by dry, nervous gestures, like a Fontana slash or a Pollock drip, but by linear actions that tend to remain intact the hand never leaves the drawing , as if they were united by a natural destiny.
For Merz, art is thus intensified life, it unrolls with the forces of existence. It is a "breath from below," to quote Antonin Artaud, 10 a breath in which are stratified the energy currents that activate the vital contexts. Merz populates space and occupies the vacuum, evincing a silence of thoughts and sensations; he accumulates signs in order to set off an explosion of their comptemporary and cohesive force.
He works on the field of energy in order to form groups of meaning, which take in even the insane moments of life. He unites or assembles their unusual and contradictory directions, giving them an unforeseen and astonishing fixity, which defines the work of art. As of Crucibles of Earth and Light It was in terms of the growth of condensa- tion and solidification that the artist de- manded a growth from the canvas.
In , he concentrated a six-inch layer of pigments on the surface. The painting jutted out; but, having become a bark or a crust of earth, it developed cracks and fissures, foreshad- owing the clay igloo, which forms cracks upon drying. Merz thus had to abandon his system in order to make room for a different kind of jutting. He achieved this in when he constructed the Untitled series: white or colored canvases or wicker on wood structures, from which shaped canva- ses jutted out in the form of a cube or truncated pyramid or roof-covered three- dimensional triangle.
Of these "jutting forms," in white canvas or wicker two photographs remain; 11 they were taken in Merz's studio on via Santa Giulia, in Turin, which I had the good fortune to visit during that period. That same year, , Merz exhibit- ed them along with paintings in order to make them easier to read and to clarify their artistic process: The works I made after everything else - the jutting structures - were determined by the presence of flat works. In the latter, the black sign, summary and flaking, functioned as a margin, and as such, it delimited the planes of the various colored surfaces, showing the need for further development.
Thus, in dealing with the operative situation of form expanding into space, the flat paintings were like blueprints for works that are still to be carried out.
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Its rise indicates the pleasure of the fermen- tation that always activates creative energy, from dawn till dusk, and once again the next morning, and so on, from day to day. The sculpture, with its volume, thus surges from the painting, with its surface; and from this point on, it is impossible for Merz to separate them. By , the wealth of sensations that were initially registered by the line and the color could no longer be contained; these sensations kept swelling and tended to seek an epidermic fullness that produced effervescences, which Merz fixed in truncated pyramids or jutting triangles.
This process seems to reflect the attempt of the painting - a blind and illusory window on the world - to open its shutters and let the light through. Take Untitled, , with its jutting shape, which is made of interwoven reeds: a fisherman's net basket, which has captured a neon tube, leans against the extreme end of the triangle formed by the shutters. In the Untitled series of , which eventual- ly was inserted into pieces done during the s, the two lateral surfaces are painted with strips and stripes in such a way that the color glides from one to the next, both against and across it, thereby creating an effect that looks like rain, a natural phenom- enon, like color, as an instrument for registering the environment.
Both compari- sons suggest a naturalistic reading of Mario Merz's art; but, as a closer inspection reveals, they are due to the subject matter, leaves and trees, that he used during the s. It would be more interesting to point out that the material and natural metaphor prefigures an organic link be- tween the Baroque discipline of a Borromi- ni and the modernist cosmology of a Gaudi. For Merz, as we have noted, the artwork crystallizes from a trajectory or a parabola: it is based on two points, in space and in time.
Here, space, as in the Baroque, is "that of travel, repetitiousness It dwells on the unusual, validates the ephemeral, threatens the perpetuity of order. But let us go back to Untitled, , in which the elements reveal an energetic density, making it totally different from Merz's earlier pieces.
Above all, we note that beyond the interweaving of the jutting structure, the wicker and the neon, this work has other peculiarities. The lateral surfaces have holes covered with scotch tape and revealing haloes that seem to indicate the use of fire. A similar physical and mental vertigo characterizes the instal- lation On the Street Nella strada , The jutting form is no longer colored or made of wicker; now, it is a white and very tense canvas, ripped and traversed by a wavy neon line and framed above and below by metal bands.
The osmosis between the parts is no longer based on the stratification of colors or the expansion of forms into space; it now derives from a transfer: the neon penetrates the volume, leaving rips on the surface and producing a strong energy contrast. Both pieces thus concretize the work of an assemblage; they combine different symbol- ic and metaphorical materials, various meanings, allowing different realities to coexist.
Ultimately, they produce a new vortex, which gathers various products of Merz's artistic language. These are extreme- ly important balancing acts, confirming past motifs and introducing new values, partly in relation to artistic events that characterize Italy, especially Turin. We must now look at the visual and linguistic aspect of Merz's work. The en- counter of unities of discourse fusing into a whole that becomes a different object is part of the process of dislocation and disorientation triggered by the discourse of historical vanguards, from Dadaism to Sur- realism.
Flouting the orthodoxy of the Weltanschauung, it favors an iconoclastic and marginal vision. Furthermore, the re- course to constructed things the jutting forms, the neon lines or found things the fishing basket expresses a shift towards surprise, but in a contrary way. Augmenting the strategy of assemblage and interweav- ing, the focus thus swings towards a new texture of reality, bringing forth a different 20 Installation, Galerie Sonnabend, Paris, April , including from right to left: Sitin.
Courtesy Kunsthalle, Diisseldorf Untitled. January , including from right to left: Carrier Cone Cono portante. Collection of the artist. The dynamism thereby obtained moves other meanings, which are based on the metamorphoses of things, changes and identities. The resulting effect is that of a semantic instability of substances and ele- ments, as if plural meanings, shifts and performances in perpetual motion opened up before each object.
The work becomes an active site of encounter, a metaphor for the conjunction of and penetration by signs, the birthplace of something new. But in which direction does the crisscross- ing of Merz's signs achieve its configura- tion? What is its cradle? How is it different from the Neo-Dada and Pop ensembles that circulated during the s? The answers lie in the before and after of an Italian henomenon: as of , Turin saw the aunchings of new information enterprises, such as Gian Enzo Sperone's Galleria II Punto.
The triumph of these artists in Italy was due to the Venice Biennale of , which awarded its first prize to Rauschenberg. Along with them, articles on Minimalism in Artforum and Art News helped to bring an international context to the Turin art world. For decades Turin had mediated between Italy and France, concre- tizing its activities in exhibitions and cultur- al centers, such as Michel Tapie's Centre de Recherche Estetique in Turin.
But now the Turinese focus shifted from Paris to New York. In this way, the dialogue highlighted a scene that was shared by or imbued with both Poo and Minimalism, yet conscious of possessing an inalienable European identity that was irreconcilable with any other. The year marked the debut of Arte Povera, the theory of which was defined in , with a search for continuous meta- morphoses of languages, accompanied by a transmutation and proliferation that are different from any forms. The goal was to deviate from the absolutism of mass-media icons, those of popular culture, and to challenge in order to shatter the abstract and linear images of industrial, reductive and Minimalist perfection.
Basically, this new movement opposed a monolithic culture that excludes ambiguity and confusion, explosion and deconstruction, irresponsi- bility and material chaos, with all the psycho-physical reversals that these terms imply. The essence of this shift was the scattering of a potential of figures and images that could circulate in all directions, with no apparent coherence, aside from the iconoclasm of incoherence, as a method of working and creating.
The dissemination commenced in Turin during and Their fullness was intensified not only by the interweaving of discordant entities, but also by the addition of a concrete subject - light in the guise of neon, as a disruptive energy.
Elements of a Method
The theme of light, say fire or a radiant substance, iconographically present in Merz's The Welder, , was a common legacy of Italian artists from Futurism to Spatialism. But it was only with Fontana's Structure for the Ninth Milan Triennial, , that neon, with its coldness, entered the art system, to be followed in by Dan Flavin's gold fluorescent tube. These two artists defined a different use of light as subject matter. In , Fontana, following the premises of Giacomo Balla and Umberto Boccioni, introduced light as a new device, in Spatial Environment; akin to the cut or the hole in the canvas, light helped to create a space or route of maximum flexibility.
It is a fluctuating substance, unlimited, unbound- ed, which the artist, with a gesture, uses to cross the environment. It therefore aimed at upsetting the pictorial space, turning it into a traversable phenomenon. However, Flavin's statements refer to the tautological value of light as an icon, an "anonymous and inglorious" entity, presented by means of fluorescent tubes, their monochromes 21 Untitled. For Merz, in contrast, light is a fire, creating combustions, altering the composition of the elements, producing tensions by pier- cing and ripping.
On the other hand, it is also a vehicle, putting the parts in contact with each other, uniting them, suggesting new totalities. The summary nature of two discordant entities was confirmed in another Untitled, , which I saw in Merz's studio on via Santa Giulia. This piece consisted of two jutting shapes on triangular bases; made of wicker, they were placed near one another, thus constituting a sequence, both of them linked by a horizontal neon tube, which pierced one shape, the space between them, and then the second shape.
Aside from aligning the objects and making them visually compact fire is an alchemical coniunctio accompanying all processes of modification of material , light has a pictori- al character, altering the colors of things: The neon, which casts its violent light on the canvas shapes, also has a sense of violence, which alters the very colors of the materials of paintings. It is not the problem of color per se that interests me, even though the neon changes the colors of various materials without transposing the image, which is what happens in paintings.
It releases a true gaze by revealing the resources of the materials and their perfor- mance. It strikes the surfaces and activates them, qualifying their essentiality, giving them life, naming them, and thereby turning them into writing. If the principal goal is to interweave multiplicity in order to release its wander- ing energy, Merz's show at the Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, Turin, re- vealed the vast breath of the artist's new course in relation to objects.
He exhibited works dated and ; two of them, Horse Theater Teatro cavallo and Hamper Cestone contained jutting forms, while others, Carrier Cone Conoportante , Lance Lancia and Untitled, involving bottles and neon, did without them completely. The use of the word "theater" makes Horse Theater a presage of a future evolution that will introduce a continuous variability and mu- tation into the movements of the actors, that is, the components of a work.
Full text of "Mario Merz"
Nevertheless, those features associated with the word "horse" retain something animal-like, something natural: a feeling that anchors them to an uncontrolled vital sensibility. In addition, the word "theater" also implies the directorial role of the artist, who is called upon to prearrange an activity that celebrates energy and movement, images and performances. The ensemble is formed by a pillow painted red in other versions, it either is white or disappears altogether , an uncovered iron structure recalling the jutting forms of the paintings of and two neon lights, a wavy tube on the wall and a linear one on the structure.
The materialization of a whole, producing a "theater," inspired Merz to look for a "dramatization" that would open variants to the kaleidoscope of combinations and grafts on the wall. The "performers" dem- onstrated agility and movement, dropping down and propping themselves on the floor. They practiced a relationship with the totality of the environment, crossing it without becoming entrenched.
Indeed, that same exhibition included Unti- tled, , which consists of a bottle leaning against a plexiglass cube and pierced by a neon tube. This complex object 22 Pierced Glass and Bottle Biccbiere e bottiglia trapassati. Collection Angelo Baldessarre, Bari Untitled. Collection of the artist is part of a series of installations in which neon joined forces with an umbrella, a glass ana a bottle, a raincoat and a chamber pot. These pieces are blocks, which, by suggesting a different system of associating things, draws different mean- ings from them.
Top priority was still given to the continui- ty of energy, already present in the paintings done in "I think that in nature, the elements all crisscross one another. However, lightning also transfixes; it resembles a Lance, , penetrating bodies and modi- fying them internally. A further meaning originates in the encoun- ter of two registers: the object and the neon light. They have to yield the meaning that is theater and the representation of a coupling in which each loses and gains identity.
Everything moves along a line of dialectics: on the one side, marginal objects tied to an organic and corporealfunctionali- tv, which speaks of drinking, urinating, dressing, getting soaked by rain - in sum, living in a daily and common rhythm; and on the other side, the cold, technological abstraction of light, an instrument for exploring the dark, a scientific and sacred device.
Both possess ample virtualities of signification between conscious and uncon- scious, material and immaterial, being and nonbeing - the legacy of an ambiguity sought by historical vanguards from Pablo Picasso to Marcel Duchamp, from Kurt Schwitters to Salvador Dali. However, as we can note, Merz does not pick a strange and unusual object, selected for its exotic character or industrial force; he prefers objects found at home or in a corner to those coming from somewhere else.
He circulates his everyday devices, such as his raincoat, then his car, as aids for living. Indeed, as in his drawings of to , he is always the center and fulcrum of aggregation and sensory elabora- tion in an external stage decoration: the spectacle arises from the trajectories traced by his objects. Ultimately, in this network of associations, the object and the neon light are invested with a flurry of meanings that make them oscillate between dream and reality, paint- ing and sculpture, libido and concept.
It was something of an invention - that emerging spurt of wine represented by light, instead of painting. Rather than painting that spurt, I empha- sized the effect of explosion and flight. It became very sensual, but also nonsensual, because it was reduced to a line. For Merz, sculptures always re- main paintings, but his colors continue to evoke a mobile and active vital force.
Red recalls fire, coursing blood and wine. It again implies the process of modification and generation, inciting to action and warm- ing up the interiors of bodies. It is also a symbol of warrior ability as well as passion and sensuality. In Raincoat Impermeabile , , the two intersecting neon tubes that perforate the raincoat which Merz discarded after using it were covered with touches of red pig- ment.
They thus evince the artist's inner force and energy as well as his explosion on the outside. This is an artist who identifies himself in the artwork as his habitation and habitat, the raincoat, but who is ready to leave it or set it aside, like a nomad, in order to reach new things. The force of this raincoat is poised disquietingly for all of Merz's creative activity so far.
It is his shadow and his imprint. If he left it behind, he would be virtually removing his gaze from the territory of his body, in order to ignore its temporal course. The raincoat thus becomes a presence, dropping from period to period into the work, emphasizing the artist's mobile body, which leaves enigmatic clues in space.
A neat, meticulous reflected image emerges in , , , up to the recent Turbine Turbina , , displaying the estrangement that grazes the artist when he tries to manifest the place of his experience: the body of life. The raincoat is the echo of this body, which is reborn and finds itself again, made recognizable because it is still traversed by energy: the light that is a continuous awakening and illumination. Merz's view differs from that of Bruce Nauman.
Both began using neon in , but with diverse goals. The California artist thinks in terms of decorative culture, he refers to advertising slogans and the city- scape filled with luminous writings. He 23 What's To Be Done? Che fare? Courtesy Kunsthalle, Diisseldorf Cat. Thus, neon is utilized as a potency for information and publicity, able to accept any and all messages. Rather than accelerating the energy, neon cools it down, triggering an implosion of meaning, producing an evanescence of the medium itself for a circularity of the artist's lyrical and poetic thought.
Nauman works on his transformism, opting for a writing that, in a world of nonexistence, such as advertis- ing, reintroduces the corporal existence of an artistic being. This is the very opposite of Merz, who uses that being in order to transcend the distinction between a world of shadow and a world of substance so as to join them together and unite them. Hence, it is not employed as a phantom or absence, but as a gestural and vital presence the course always seems free and subordi- nate to the gesture of the hand, as in a drawing ; it injects an erotic component, a passage between various bodies with differ- ent sensualities.
It is something in between, an intermediary that unites and provokes a libidinal spark, a pleasure that passes through the individual subjectivity. That is why Merz's neon is put to an amorous use, conquering or conquered. It is both ephem- eral and solid. It fuses grace and strength, fatness and skinniness, satisfying all experi- ences.
It guarantees the circulation of plea- sure between lovers, because it makes the boiling of sensual energy pass from one body to the other. Water, here, symbolizes regeneration, raw materi- al, vitality, incessant movement. However, it was also a political boiling in that disrupted civil society, triggering a crisis in behaviors and languages, in attitudes towards power and the family, and inflicting a deep wound on a static society, making it mobile and filling it with conflict.
That was the year in which the old social contradictions fused with the revolt against the authoritarian power of one generation over another. The year brought the explosive rejection of a philistine culture, which failed to recognize the "other" - from the female to the homosexual. This phenomenon, leaving its imprint on all cultural models, had a worldwide diffusion.
People spoke of a revolutionary imagination, an image of power and a universal renewal. The refer- ences were to all languages, so that art, too, was affected, undergoing a tremendous but. It opened up to multiplicity, no longer categorizing itself as painting or sculpture; it went into the streets and into the deserts, calling its adventures Arte Povera, Land Art, Body Art, Conceptual Art. It was a period of feverish experimen- tation, which liberalized the creative processes.
Merz, too, experienced the abundance of that time and, as a good seismograph, he registered the situation, integrating it in his work, for example, in Sitin, , and Solitary Solidarity, both - titles deriv- ing directly from actions, events and graffiti of the May uprising in France. The meaning was politico-existential, the writings were inserted on a wax stratum, which filled up, or a net or in a pot.
That is why they were the nutriments, both intellectual and physical, of a society as well as an individual. At the same time, the writing, when placed upon the object, dominated it, tried to make it disappear. It was almost as if the idea and the Utopia, the project and the dream, written but not experienced, betrayed sensitivity and delica- cy. Merz's reading was meticulous: illusion crumbled, because it was mental, cerebral, and not experienced; it remained an Unreal City Cittd irreale , Merz feels the danger of opening art to the dominion of the thinker and the ideologue, which was emphasized by the arrival of Conceptual Art on the visual scene.
Merz reacted by minimizing the efficacy of the idea qua word, which could easily devour the object, and by constructing a real world: the gallery. First in order discard the jutting plane or wall plane and create a space independent of the process of hanging things on the wall or nailing them to the wall and putting them on a table. Hence, the idea of the igloo as the idea of absolute and self-contained space: it is not modeled; it is a hemisphere placed on the ground. I wanted, the hemisphere to be nongeometrical, so the hemispherical shape created by a metallic structure was covered with sacks or shape- less pieces of material such as soil, clay or glass.
Then I began the work of writing on this structure. I felt it was so important to be able to write in an absolutely static form like neon. It works with limits, such as the perimeter of a painting, marking the boundary between full and empty. It is a magnet, accumulating tensions and weights, thoughts and ges- tures, whose osmosis is energetically de- fined with the breath of the circumference, which, being elastic, vibrates under the pressures of clay or glass.
As a den and a cathedral of survival, shielding against winds and artistic stress, the igloo is the image of the nomad and the vagabond, who believes not so much in a secure object as in a dynamic and contradictory existence. As we have already emphasized in regard to Merz's works of the s: for the nomad, existence means moving in a con- text and reinventing for oneself an osmosis with food and nature, landscape and local people, without crystallizing as anything definite or stable.
By the same token, his structures are not likely to endure; rather, they emerge from the accumulation of items necessary for his survival. Merz, a nomad in painting, became a builder of igloos: You have to construct in a way that is antithetical to present-day models. Con- struct with processes of development and withdrawal, by deploying willpower and subduing will power, in a natural breath, day and night.
The materials are chosen from one time to the next, dictated by fate, by the location, by the adjacency of other elements, by the plants Constructing is an hour-by-hour and day-by-day need to fuse your will with everything that is dispersive in life. The erection of the igloo thus responds to personal and social needs, while remaining open to symbolic and cosmic interpreta- tions.
The dimension of the igloo is mythi- cal and moves through time, which is why its re-creation preserves the engima of an active but spent life. Thus, the clamps and arches forming its bark or defensive crust can bear painted glass and mats, bite and fix canvases and twigs, gather stone slabs and glass, car doors and wax surfaces.
Everything is reduced to the enigma and magma of nomadic energy, in which signs form images that combine miserable yet vital and present materials. Giap Igloo bore the sentence "Se il nemico si concentra perde terreno, se si disperde perde forza" If the enemy masses his forces, he loses ground; if he scatters he loses strength. The first igloo was a semicircular structure bearing a net on which Merz had placed lumps of clay that eventually dried; the words "objet cache-toi" object, conceal yourself were written on the clay.
The second igloo was made of lumps of clay held together by cellophane bearing the Giap script. In the system of political and sensory hopes created that year, , the mutual support between the affirmation of a closed and compact hemispherical world, the meta- phor for an individual habitat, and the assumption of a collective consciousness by means of the harmony of writing demon- strated that, for Merz, art has never been a happy island, an art for art's sake that does not participate even minimally in the histor- ical parabola; rather, it is a speaking and 25 Merz incising Traces lracce on wall in San Benedetto del Tronto, V 7 T Traces Traccej.
Giap, a Vietnamese general, and the artist, both of whom think of mounting an attack on all the structures of political or visual oppression, not simply in terms of violence, but in terms of force in a dialectical relationship with the enemy and the context. As a place of salvation and energetic declaration, the igloo is a pure testimony to trust amid insecurity. Merz regards the artist's destiny as an essentially anarchic enterprise, which rejects any kind of author- ity or set of rules, proliferating where there is no security.
It is a way of life and thought, it can proceed lightly and swiftly, it is a double skin that shields the artist's ideal body. The igloo is the ideal organic shape. It is both a world and a small house. What interests me in the igloo is that it exists in the mind prior to being implemented: an organic idea is not yet organic in the absolute; it first has to be realized.
Next comes the problem of organizing a structure that is as simple as possible. Architecture is a construction for refuge, for giving human beings a total dimension The igloo is a synthesis, a complex image, since I thorough- ly torment the elementary image of an igloo, which I carry inside my self. In Never Has Stone Been Raised on Stone Mai alzato pietra su pietra , , the lumps of clay are replaced by lumps of cloth, while the writing places art outside the realm of brutal physical work, transforming art into a delicate, sensual activity with a strong female component; after all, the idea of the lumps came from Marisa Merz, whose Eresence henceforth fundamentally marked er husband's oeuvre.
If indeed the igloo is a starting point for fantastic and energetic radiation as well as self-absorption, its image can magnetize all sensibilities. It repels gazes in order to defend itself, but takes them in for a dialogue, turning opaque or transparent, rigid or dry, covering itself with glass and twigs, delicate and frail when clad in wax or canvas, defensive and aggressive when coated with broken glass. Hence, the igloo is an open entity, which accepts the fact that inside and outside are one and the same, just like love and hate, friendship and enmity.
The dialectics introduced into Merz's first drawing ultimately became architecture, a habitable vessel, functioning as the same alembic of sensations and experiences; it is a cup an upside-down cup that gathers the dust of its wanderings upon its shell. The igloo is a subject devoted to a relation- ship with architecture and landscape.
It gathers a place and a time, but since it does not put them in order, it is drawn to chance and disorder. It works on blendings and it shatters the habitual configurations of Car- tesian thought, because it brings out unfore- seen articulations. It is a passerby, living the rhythm of the city and its chaos. Its existence is made up of vestiges and frag- ments, and it never admits the phenomeno- logical rigor of Minimalist objectivity. The greater attention paid by Merz to his environmental situation is thus not free of sensorial effluvia, it touches the world in its flesh and bone.
The igloo is an experi- enced scrap. In opposition to the rigorous enunciation of Minimalism, the igloo establishes a gnoseological and mental contact with space and architecture, devoid of smudges and imprecisions. They cul- minated in pure signs and volumes, imbued with an absolute industrial and geometric sublimation. Minimalism followed a phe- nomenological doctrine, describing, as it did, constructive modalities and the proce- dures of appearances. It purified the results of art, reducing them to their formal essentiality, relating them to their primary generality.
The study of such eidetic phe- nomena leads to an awareness of artistic method and process, but reduces them to sheer appearance, thereby almost eliminat- ing the difference between shadow and substance.
Merz secures himself against that risk, utilizing a primary form the sphere , but not relying on its metaphysical purity or its conceptuality. For the Italian artist, the notion and phenomenon of a form, its logic and conceptuality are momentary factors. To- gether with Franz Kafka and Marcel Proust, authors whom Merz read as a teenager, he believes that evanescent and ephemeral data guarantee a greater intensity. Thus, he opposes the maximum topographical preci- sion of Minimalism with a maximum open- ness to the accidents and randomness of a trip through the things of everyday life and nature.
In , an utterly frail and dissonant location was offered by the Galleria L'Atti- co in Rome, where Merz exhibited pieces involving glass, twigs, wax and stucco. Each work participated in the unique environment: an ola garage revamped into a gallery, where Kounellis nad presented his live horses. In this space, Merz installed ten pieces, including: Wood Shavings Truccio- ti , , a bale of hay with a neon tube; Small Parcel II paccbetto , , a se- quence of dusty panes illuminated from behind; Nugget Lingotto , , a truncat- ed pyramidal structure surrounded by twigs, its peak occupied by a block of wax; and Automobile Pierced by Neon Auto- mobile trapassata dal neon , , a gray Simca , with a Swiss license plate, which, after being driven by Merz for years, wound up as an artwork like the raincoat , with a neon tube stuck into its roof.
Compared with the previous show in Turin, the images displayed in Rome tended to- wards liquefaction, moving from the trans- parency of glass to the frailty of stucco and wax. In their thrust towards a dissipation of the object, these works introduced nets and twigs, hay and bamboo, and brought back water What's To Be Done , while presenting the constant leitmotif of the nomad, this time in the avator of a car. The effect was that of a discharge into a bright, windy, airborne landscape of leaves and shrubs.