Kurt Schwitters' last Merzbau: The Elterwater Merz Barn

Merz Barn 2018 – 70 years since the death of Kurt Schwitters

1 the old infirmary for web

Memorial tribute 7.1.2018, Strickland Court Kendal, site of the hospital where Kurt Schwitters died

In Memoriam K.S.

The 70th anniversary of Kurt Schwitters’ death in January 1948 fell on January 8 1948.  The occasion was marked by a short memorial programme in the Queens Hotel, Ambleside on Sunday, January 7th, with performances  by Florian Kaplick and Ian Hinde on and about the Ursonate.

2 Florian, Ian, & Fiddlers for web

The Lakeland Fiddlers pay tribute to K.S., 7.1.18

This was followed by a dash to Strickland Court in Kendal, the site of the old county hospital in which Schwitters died.  The Lakeland Fiddlers braved the bleak weather to play a memorial tribute, flowers were placed on an approximation of the site, and then everyone retired to Cylinders where there was a barbecue with performances by Steve Grundy and his various instruments.

Looking at alternatives for the future of the Merz Barn

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Article in The Guardian, 8.1.18   N.B. The Merz Barn photo used was taken in 2007.

On January 8th an article appeared in The Guardian reporting the possibility that the Merz Barn might be sold to an arts entrepreneur in China if funding to keep it going were not forthcoming in England.  It is the case that the Littoral Trust has received several enquiries about the possibility of buying Cylinders, one of which was from China. The article, together with a filmed piece on ‘Look North Tonight’, helped to raise public awareness about the future of the Merz Barn.

4 NW Tonight 9.1.18 for web

Happily the issue has been resolved, for the next two years at least, and the Trustees are actively pursuing various avenues for the safe-guarding of the buildings and the site after that.

Holocaust Memorial Week

Traditionally we mark the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Week in January with a celebration of our own, remembering all the groups persecuted for ‘deviance’ by the Nazi regime in Germany:  beside the Jews they attempted to annihilate Black people, anyone with mental or physical problems, Gypsies, Seventh Day Adventists, and artists working in Modernist genres.  On the evening of January 26th we invited our regional Rabbi to join in a memorial event in the Merz Barn, together with the vicar of All Saints church, George Wrigley, a Buddhist, an Adventist, and others.  A small exhibition was opened featuring a rug, hand-woven in Afghanistan to a design by artist Jim Ricks ‘Tread Carefully!’, based on a slogan by George Grosz displayed at the First International Dada Fair in Weimar in 1922. Translated, the text runs:  ‘Take Dada seriously, It is worth it!’ (www.jimricks.info).

7 Nehmen Sie Dada Ernst for web

Restoration work at Cylinders

As usual the winter gales saw the fall of several of our vintage birch trees. Self-seeded, these have a short life of around 70 years, and are especially vulnerable when they stand on shallow earth.  Mike Edmondson’s team came in during February to log the crop of fallen trees, happily finding no major damage this year to neighbouring beeches or conifers, or to the ancient dry-stone walls.

9 Tree maintenance for web

February was also the month during which Steve Grundy finished work on the new glasshouse behind the Merz Barn, a replica of the one to be seen in old photographs of Cylinders, built by Harry Pierce during the 1940s.

The original Glasshouse in the 1950s       Steve Grundy with the new glasshouse gallery and    reading room

Restoration of the Drawing Office – Cumbria Fells & Dales LEADER+ Grant

We are happy to announce that Littoral has been awarded a grant by LEADER/RDPE to completely rebuild Harry Pierce’s old Drawing Office at Cylinders this autumn.  The architect is Andrew Shepherd, and the work will be undertaken by Cook & Lakin of Ambleside and Windermere. The ‘drawing office’ rebuild will include new gallery display space and micro museum and reading room  devoted to the work and life of local garden designer Harry Pierce. Who had first supported Schwitters while working on the Merz Barn in 1947.


Arts programmes for students, artists and young people at the Merz Barn site

The artistic programme at Cylinders during 2018 has continued to expand. There have been residencies and visits for student groups from the Royal College of Art, Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Salford, and the University of Cumbria Institute of Arts.

Installation by a student from Salford Uni.    Drawing in the Merz Barn.

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MA students from the Royal College of Art showing their work in the Merz Barn, July 23rd

KSDIY 18  Summer School    14 – 24.07.18

16 Summer Sch Flyer for web

Summer School Workshops

16 A Drystone walling for web

Dry-stone walling with Steve Grundy

16C Danny Clahane 2018-07-18 for web

Stone-carving workshop with artist Danny Clahane

The KS18 Summer School was organised by members of the RCA Students’ Union led by Cat Robertson. They attended workshops on drystone walling with Steve Grundy, stone-carving with sculptor Danny Clahane, woodland crafts with Dave Middleton, collage with artist Mike Healey, and – a popular choice – trench-digging on Mike Edmondson’s digger.  The weather for once was perfect.

Mike Healey’s Collage workshop: loose re-creation of a work by Schwitters, now lost, (Das Merzbild 1919) included (upside down) in the 1939 Munich ‘Entartete Kunst’ Exhibition of 1939.

Degenerate-Hitler-Ziegler (1)

After Mike’s workshop the ‘re-created’ collage was carried in procession to the Merz Circle where it was hung right side up on the Merz Barn wall, sections of his ‘Ursonate’ piece were read by Ian Hinde, and the event was crowned by an impromptu country dancing session to the accompaniment of Steve Grundy’s accordion.

23 Benji, Mike & digger for web

RCA Student Union Benji taking instruction from Mike Edmondson


Exhibitions at Cylinders 2018

Peter Symonds exhibition   INDIGENOUS.

New and recent paintings by Peter Symonds.  A response to the work of Kurt Schwitters.   April 7 until April 28.

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Minimalist Collage display by Peter Symonds in the Shippon Gallery (detail

Mike Healey  ‘Collage’ Exhibition.  May 6 to June 3rd

25 Healey Merz Poster for web

Statement – Mike Healey

For the last five years I have lived and worked on a Greek island.   Corfu, away from the tourist sites, is a lush expanse of olive groves, secret lakes, dark forests and unyielding mountains – a landscape where ancient gods and goddesses once walked, spreading fear and veneration in equal measure.   It is, therefore, a haunted island, and any artist worth his or her salt must recognize the indefinable presence of these pagan forces.

 Many of the paintings in this exhibition therefore have their origins in Greece, and reflect the veneration I have for ‘place’ – wherever it may be. This takes many forms, including close study of indigenous plant forms, rock formations and specific landscapes.

‘Merz in the Moment’ Exhibition in the Merz Barn and Cake Room,   August 3rd & 4th (Abbott Hall Dementia Arts group).

Shannon Quigley, Curator of the ‘Merz in the Moment’ Exhibition;  Donna Campbell hanging the Exhibition with Warren (MMU

28 Shannon speaks for web

‘Merz in the Moment’ Exhibition Opening, August 4th 2018

‘Merz in the Moment’ is a long-term collaborative art project initiated by Abbott Hall Art Gallery in collaboration with the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, with people coping with dementia and their carers.  They took as their theme inspiration from Kurt Schwitters’ collages, and we were delighted when they were able to bring their project to Cylinders and display their own artwork in the Merz Barn.  The artists and their carers will be returning in the new year to produce a major installation and exhibition.

Chris Roberts (UAL) Collage Exhibition in the new Glasshouse gallery

Chris Roberts, Head of Foundation Studies UAL, Glasshouse Exhibition

Chris Roberts, Head of Foundation Art Studies  at the University of the Arts London, was funded by UAL to undertake a week-long research residency at Cylinders in August.  The main purpose of the residency was to look at future possibilities for residencies and research work at the Merz Barn for UAL students.

Ouroboros Exhibition  Shippon Gallery, Aug 5th to 31st

‘Ouroboros, ‘the snake that eats its tail’, is an exploration of the transformative power of collage.  It includes recycling, upcycling, the personal and the universal, the implications of ‘selfie culture’, the relationship between art and time, part and whole’.

31 Ouroboros Flyer for web

The Ouroboros ‘Transformation of the Discarded’ exhibition features the work of OPAO (All Possibilities Are Open), a recently formed group of artists based in Kendal – Steve Trevillion, Annie Coxey, Delcia McNeil and Rosie Wates.  The group has been working in and around the Merz Barn throughout the year to produce the current exhibition for the Shippon Gallery and the Merz Barn Cake Room.

At the opening on August 5th, which was graced by brilliant sunshine, cakes and tea were served from the Merz Barn Cake Room, and dance and spoken improvisations took place in the Merz Circle and the Shippon Gallery.

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Ouroboros Exhibition in the Shippon Gallery

Cakes on display in the Cake Room window    Ouroboros Performance in the Merz Circle

OPAO:  The Future

The Ouroboros exhibition was the first stage of a longer term project in which the artists will be working in and around the Merz Barn to prepare a series of artworks, performances, and educational projects involving other artists and young people in the region.

OPAO  have a related Ouroboros exhibition opening at Kendal Museum on September 12th, Private View 3 – 6 pm – all welcome.  The exhibition continues until October 3rd.

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‘Sweet Dreams!’  Found Photo-Collage (Cake Room)

Keep an eye on the Merzbarn Langdale FaceBook page for details of future events!


Author: https://www.facebook.com/MerzBarnLangdale/?fref=ts

The site where Kurt Schwitters created his last great Merz artwork

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