Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Schwitters in Lobosice

A delightful story I re-read recently, told by Raoul Hausmann:

Kurt Schwitters, Untitled (with early portrait of Kurt Schwitters), 1937/38, Collage, Sprengel Museum, Hannover

"The day after the performance, we started out on the return journey. First we went to the little town of Lobosice, because it had the Elbe, in which Schwitters wanted to bathe, and also a ruin. We left Prague in the afternoon, and, to Schwitters' great regret, we were compelled to take an express train in order to get to Lobosice on the same day. It was packed, so Kurt and Helma (his wife) got into one carriage and Hannah (Hoech) and I into another.

It was evening when we arrived at Lobosice. There was only a sort of covered platform on a high railway embankment. We went down some steps, looked round and saw nothing but a pine forest, nothing else whatever apart from the station building, about two hundred yards away. There we stood. Was this Lobosice?

Schwitters said "Hausmann, you and Hannah go over there and ask if the town is far away and whether there is a hotel we can spend the night." No sooner said than done.

We came back. Under an apple-green evening sky, against a high black embankment, burned a single feeble street-light. There stood a statue; it was a woman with her arms stretched out in front of her and draped with shirts and underclothes. She stood there like Lot's pillar of salt, while on the ground knelt a man, surrounded by shoes and articles of clothing, before him a suitcase full of papers, like the intestines of a slaughtered animal.

He was doing something to a piece of cardboard with scissors and a tube of adhesive. The two people were Kurt and Helma Schwitters. The picture is one I shall never forget: these two figures in the great dark Nothingness, totally absorbed in themselves.

As I approached I asked "Kurt, what are you doing?"

Kurt looked up and replied, "It occurred to me that collage 30 B 1 needs a little piece of blue paper in the lower left-hand corner. I shan't be a moment."

Such a man was Kurt Schwitters."

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