In the last years of his life, German artist Kurt Schwitters lived in exile in the Lake District, where he set about creating what he hoped would be his ultimate artwork, the ‘Merz Barn’.



Schwitters’ original ‘Merzbau‘ is an icon of modernism and an early form of installation art. A kind of abstract, walk-in collage composed of grottoes, columns and found object; he constructed it inside his Hannover studio in the 1920 and 30s. Schwitters fled Nazi Germany in 1937, and the Merzbau was later destroyed in an Allied bombing raid. Less well known is the ‘Merz Barn’ that he began building near Elterwater in the Lake District. TateShots travelled there to explore the only surviving example of Schwitters’ Merz environments. Radio presenter Tom Ravenscroft picks up the story.

Schwitters in Brittain is at Tate Britain from 30 January – 12 May 2013


This video is highly misleading in several ways: The voice-over, when mentioning Schwitters' Hanover Merzbau, intrudes into footage of a photograph of the interior of the Saltwater Merz Barn, giving the impression that the photograph is one related to the much earlier Hanover work. The video footage of the present day Merz Barn interior portrays structures built and installed in the summer of of 2012 by artists and students participating in a workshop at Cylinders Farm, the site of the Merz Barn. These structures amount to no more than interpretations of Schwitters' intentions. The voice-over accompanying this footage strongly implies that one is viewing the Merz Barn interior as it was left by Schwitters. We, (Rob Montgomery and Lloyd Gibson), are most concerned that this misleading production will be viewed by a public (including artists and students) and that Tate seems to be encouraging them to accept its content as historical fact.