I Build My Time

Kurt Schwitters in England 1940-48

Kurt Schwitters, born in 1887, was one of the most original and poetic of the German Dada artists. He met Hans Arp and Raoul Hausmann in Zurich in 1918 and in the following year founded a Dada group in Hanover. In the same year he invented Merz and worked on his first Merz-bau (entitled The Cathedral of Erotic Misery) in Hanover between 1923-37, which was bombed in 1943. The second, begun in Norway (1937-40), was destroyed by fire in 1951; only the third, on which he was still working at the time of his death, survives in its incomplete form. The film covers the period spent by Kurt Schwitters in England from his arrival as a refugee in 1940 to his death in 1948. Most of this time was spent in Ambleside in the Lake District with Edith Thomas, whom he met in London in 1941. She recalls her meeting with Schwitters, her introduction to his form of Dada and their life together, talking about the way he would find and keep collections of objects to be used in his assemblages, his work as a conventional landscape and portrait artist from which he made a living, and his responses to the people and scenery of the Lakes. The film tells of Schwitters's growing infirmity and his friends' anxiety for his health. Despite this Schwitters began work on his third Merz-bau, the transformation of the interior of a building into an integrated work of art, this time in an old barn. Unlike the first and second attempts, this Merz-bau used a natural organic style in keeping with its surroundings. The film shows the single completed wall, which was moved to Newcastle University in 1965. Taking up Schwitters's career at the point where Merz (563) leaves off, the film gives a sympathetic account of his last years, showing a range of his work from his conventional pictures and poems to his continuing Merz collages.





Director: Tristram Powell
Writer/Narration: William Feaver
Original music: John Dalbey
Arts Council of Great Britain:

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Catalog number #563A

30 minutes Color

Age Range: 14 to Adult

48hr Streaming Access

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Film Located in: 18. Dada and Surrealism | Germany