MerzBank is a repository of artists’ online works that draw their inspiration from that trailblazing exponent of collage, Kurt Schwitters. Guided by his innovations in the visual arts, in spoken word, in typography and poetry, the project anticipates how Schwitters’ mercurial spirit might have flourished in the online world, while highlighting the debt that new forms of digital collage owe to Schwitters’ formative example. Converting Schwitters’ creative legacy into the new common currency of digital and social media, the artists’ pieces for MerzBank deploy the everyday iconography of our contemporary moment in the same way that Schwitters incorporated the unheralded, overlooked products of mass culture in his art. Newly commissioned works by Nick Crowe & Ian Rawlinson, Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard and Alec Finlay reflect the many different facets of Schwitters’ aesthetic while exploring today’s ever-expanding outlets for combining and communicating images, texts and sounds. Whether using content-sharing platforms such as SoundCloud or Pinterest as places to find and assemble material, or experimenting with other forms of digital dissemination such as downloads and apps, the pieces demonstrate how Schwitters’ practice continues to reverberate in the present.
Schwitters named his distinctive found material ‘Merz’, after a fragment of the German word ‘Commerzbank’. MerzBank (and its web address merzbank.com) put these syllables back together again (in a different order); adding a new twist to the trading of images, the creation of value and the exchange of ideas that circulates online.