Dadaism, one of the most intriguing artistic movements of the twentieth century, was born in Zurich, home to many émigrés, and at the same time a string of artists working in New York, Berlin and Paris began working in a similar vein. Developing as a reaction to the war, this trend set itself against bourgeois values and artistic conventions, while it lauded irrationalism and intuition in place of reason and logic.
Kurt Schwitters, after his application was rejected, was never formally a member of the movement, yet he became the most consistent proponent of Dadaist ideas. His Merz pictures and reliefs (the nonsensical word was taken from a fragment of the German word 'Kommerz,' or 'commerce') are mostly small collages of a wide variety of objets trouvés; a kind of 'trashcan poetry'. Schwitters used almost everything in them, from pieces of wood and iron lying in the street, through tattered rags, to used envelopes, shreds of newspaper, and tram tickets. His chief work, the Merzbau (Merz building), a monumental trash sculpture occupying two floors of his house in Hannover, was built over a period of a decade.
This collage, number fifty, made of train tickets, chocolate wrappers, scraps of newspapers and rags was given by Schwitters to Sándor Bortnyik, a Hungarian avant-garde artist, at the international Dadaist meeting in Weimar in autumn 1922. With a playful, genuine Dadaist gesture he labelled the work with a scrap from a sell-by date inscription of a box of cocoa: 'März/Ap'.

Zoltán Kárpáti


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