May 7th, 8th and 9th from 3.30 to 6.30 pm


analysis of a selection of texts on Schwitters, aimed at identifying all the artist’s occurrences as syntactic subject; reduction in elementary sentences and creation of a mantra/rosary; courtship and signification of the thing/ghost; Stairway To Paradise.


Arianna Desideri, Quotations, fragments and stories of, on, about Kurt Schwitters

Sarah Wilson, Kurt Schwitters in Inghilterra (Kurt Schwitters in England), Translated by Elio Grazioli

From: Grazioli, E. (edited by), 2009, Kurt Schwitters, «Riga», n.29, Milan, Marcos y Marcos.


May 16th from 4 pm to 6.30 pm


Subjectivity and linguistic editing. What can be saved of an almost banal daily routine.

Performed by

Luigi Battisti, Simone Compagno, Arianna Desideri, Claudia Melica, Jacopo Natoli, Pasquale Polidori, Tianyi Xu.


During the first week of workshop, a selection of texts related to Schwittters was analyzed, in order to obtain a list of simple sentences in which “Kurt Schwitters” occurs as a syntactic function of subject or object of the verb. The purpose of the analysis is to create a rosary which can be recited as a singsong, inducing a state of suspension and meditation around the word “Schwitters”, taken as the linguistic ghost of the artist. The hypnotic and potentially infinite circularity of the singsong (which means: musical thought; and therefore: inspired or whispered thought) represents the path to the reconstruction, through linguistics, of the absent body of the artist. Meditation on the invisibility is the cure of artwork as being sick of non-appearance. Workshop 1 was followed by a reflection on the meaning of Stairway to Paradise by Gershwin. The text is a hymn to the dance, celebrated as the shortest route to reach happiness. But it is also a song that highlights the irresistible force of an absolute desire for joy, contemplated until it becomes a daily discipline: the training to be happy. The simple sentences which form the rosary will be as well considered as a stairway to Paradise. Which Paradise are we talking about? Words in their wandering and repeating creates Schwitters’ aesthetic presence as a ready-made. Indeed, as any ready-made comes from the discourse around which it develops itself, so the absence/presence of Schwitters gets its substance through the singsong. Paradise is then the symbolic contact with Schwitters.

ph: Tommaso Mlynarczyk





he understands something
he begs for redemption

he transmutes
he sings
he trills
he whispers
he gurgles
he rejoices
he drags the listeners out of their skin
he teaches us something
he sets out to work
he changes his clothes
he wears a shirt
he takes his dentures out
he puts the dentures (in a glass)
he covers his head
he merzes
he needs a grand piano
he keeps the jars
he places a little house
he manufactures a little house
he puts the guinea pigs in there
he merzes the building
he lives in a building
he erects the columns
he discovers the meaning
he rejects something
he lets himself be contained
he is contained
he fills the places
he catches somebody
he chases the clouds
he sweeps away the concepts
he falls off the pedestal
he does something
he keeps himself serious
he interrupts the poems
he feels fine
he knocks over a jar
he works
he calls something like
he works hard
he pastes his works
he asks something
he creates something out of a mass
he looks at the mass
he declares something
he knocks over a mass
he glues a nose
he writes something
he is a magician
he is a creator
he walks (into the room)
he looks like a farmer
he presents the panels
he opens his mouth
he pulls out a cardboard
he puts the cardboard upon his chest
he reads a poem
he screams a poem
he whistles a poem
he shouts a poem
he maintains something
he does something
he introduces himself
he curtsies
he is well known
he declines something
he comes to see me
he covers the walls
he covers the windows
he covers the doors
he uses some glue
he is active
he keeps himself busy
he does something

he makes a sign
he jumps off the tram
he responds to the protests
he shows the plate
he unscrews the plate
he brings a screwdriver
he takes with him an arsenal
he uses the plate
he stands upright on the stage
he begins the Ursonate
he whistles
he screams
he screeches
he is filled with consternation
he freezes
something disturbs him
he keeps doing something
he recites something
he covers the whirlwind
he calls art, art
he creates the image
he creates the appearance
he plays with the argument
he plays with the object
he extracts the materials
he is an individuality
he is dada
he is dada
he joins Dada
he creates MERZ
he collects scrap metal
he collects cogwheels (from clocks)
he picks up objects
he uses objects
he has fun with glue
he works miracles
he brings something back to life
he explains something
he makes a sculpture
he cuts his hair
he puts his hair aside
he takes a pencil

he takes a lace
he takes a cigarette
he takes a nail
he takes a bowtie
he takes a feather
he takes some objects
he takes a (dental) bridge
he takes a vial (of urine)
he explains something
he goes around (the column)
he adds something
he is obliged to do

he adopts a solution
he is the owner (of the house)
he dismisses the renters
he pierces the ceiling
he carries on with the column
he finishes the column
he starts again the column
he abandons the column
he makes the column

he forgives something
he identifies himself with a piece of art
he lives a piece of art
he believes in a piece of art



he stays in England
he gets a passport
he goes to the United States
he meets the artists
he creates Merz
he needs something
he creates pieces of art
he builds his past anew
he is loved by the New Yorkers
he knows Germany
he is longing for Germany
he gets away from Norway
he arrives in Great Britain
he is interned
he writes to his mother
he listens to conferences
he paints heads
he signs a petition
he fills a form
he is exhausted
he goes to the church

he is incapable

he believes in kindness
he knows something
he suffers from fits
he goes on with his activity
he is stimulated
he is known
he paints by heart
he has his eyes on something
he works
he has the privilege (of something)
he obtains the wine
he obtains the cigars
he works
he transforms the barn
he benefits from the advantages
he shows his talent
he stands out as an artist
he has knowledge
he uses the dust
he obtains the paint
he grinds the minerals
he grinds the colourants
he mixes the rations
he mixes the gelatin
he boils the bones
he mixes the flour

he mixes the leaves
he destroys the trunks
he tears off the linoleum
he studs the fabric
he frays the fabric
he sprinkles the fabric with stains
he glues the sole
he fixes something
he stores the paint
he has a problem
he has a history
he is between two worlds
he writes poems
he is a prisoner
he uses the image
he translates the bewilderment
he is busy doing something
he is allowed something
he overcomes difficulties

he utilizes talents
he writes in English
he writes in German
he recreates the past

he is alone

he is misunderstood

it is the experience
he lives in Bayswater
he lives with Ernst
he lives with Esther
he meets Edith
he is released
he feels something
he looks for a job
he waits endlessly
he eats
he makes an exception
he comes into relationship
he becomes a member
he exhibits one of his works
he meets Ben
he meets the intelligentsia
he exhibits
he evokes a world
he anticipates the sentimentalism
he pricks up his ears
he opens his eyes
he is soaked in the environment
he is heard
he does a reading
he has fun
he is illogical
he meets two souls
he meets Stefan
he meets Franciszka
he takes account of something
he makes a collage
he is the master
he is stubborn
he rebels
he includes the scraps
he sees a face
he sells four of his works
he is commissioned to produce three works
he comes up with a new form
he is happy
he is recognised
he learns something
he has the tools
he works on Merzbarn
he gathers the artists
he has a cup of tea
he establishes a relationship
he goes to London
he celebrates his wedding
he is happy
he sells the painted landscapes
he sells the portraits
he declares something
he is isolated
he makes a comment
he lives these years
he renounces a period
he works
he forgets a period
he is an Impressionist
he is Merz
he is ashamed of something
he paints portraits
he goes back to his roots
he moves backwards

he informs someone (about something)
he omits something
he signs the paintings
he uses vermillion
he writes his signature
he hesitates
he gives a recital
he renews his relationships
he is a correspondent
he sends his works
he pays tribute to his friends
he immortalizes Andrew
he goes to the Tate
he immortalizes his friends
he transforms the correspondence
he is happy
he renews his relationships
he understands evolution
he dreams of a piece of art
he dreams of a project
he exchanges letters with his friends
he writes something
he writes an epic
he is aware of something
he makes an impression
he is idolized
he shows his refusal
he goes beyond the end
he cherishes the dream
he goes back to Hannover
he raises the Merzbau again

he gets excited
he criticises England
he criticises art
he is an artist
he exults
he receives the notification

he realizes his projects
he works
he creates
he restores the Merzbau
he confides something
he spits blood
he admits something
he uses the barn

he starts the Merzbarn
he writes something
he obtains the authorization
he applies the plaster
he achieves an effect
he shows enthusiasm

he builds a Merzbarn
he finishes his work
he writes something
he uses the paint
he plans a system
he composes a sculpture
he builds the sculpture
he paints the sculpture
he is poor
he is sick
he writes his will
he makes the necessary arrangements
he is unknown
he is happy
he reads the article
he participates in an exhibition
he feels satisfaction
he writes
he lives
he asks
he gets weak
he writes to Ernst
he recognizes something
he dies
he raves
he is carried
he dies
he asks

he burns
he is alive
he burns
he builds the wall
he tears down the wall
he is available
he helps (someone)
he lends his paintings
he lends his sculptures
he uses the packages
he uses the comics
he predicts the enthusiasm
he predicts research
he finds shelter in the permissive
he finds shelter in the primitive
he spreads his wings
he lets go of discipline
he respects tradition
he returns to primitive

he refuses tradition
he is nourished
he approaches the object
he has a conception
he predicts something



ph: Tommaso Mlynarczyk


Baby Bitter knows the way…

The second part of Schwitters-Rosary comes from the syntactic analysis and reduction in elementary sentences of Sarah Wilson’s fundamental essay Kurt Schwitters in England, translated into Italian by Elio Grazioli[1]. The years that Schwitters spent in England were those of the War, and therefore those of poverty and narrowness of space. For an artist who had intended his entire apartment for artistic work, transforming it into a total artwork, and who treated the places of life as mere object-extensions of a pervasive poetic language, finding himself on the run, having abandoned work, words and things, interned in a prison camp, everyday life could be truly hallucinating. And in fact, the attacks of epilepsy and melancholy resume; two presences dating back to childhood, and which, in the eyes of the other prisoners, made the sweet and paradoxical joy of that man even more singular: “A tall, solidly built man (…) like a baby on stilts naively smiling.”[2]
And yet, as Wilson shows, that time was one of great artistic production for Schwitters, during which he not only intensely resumed painting, but he did not abandon sculpture or the practice of installation. He began composing poems in English, and his extraordinary art of performance never suffered from the lack of an audience.

In the internment camp on the Isle of Man (Hutchinson Camp), intended mostly for Germans residing in England or arriving there as refugees, there was a lively cultural environment, which imprisonment made more sensitive and supportive. In fact, the camp was called the “artists’ camp”, as it housed a significant percentage of writers, musicians, painters, and people related to the artistic environment, such as: the framer Paul Levi, who renewed the concept of frame in an intellectual sense and modernistic; or the gallery owner Max Stern, who participated in the organization of a couple of exhibitions in the camp, where all those artistic tendencies, suppressed as ‘degenerate’ in Germany, ended up being represented. In the evening, professors from different disciplines, coming from all the universities of England, gathered to not lose the habit of thinking, also giving lessons in an area of ​​the camp that was specifically reserved for academic activity.

Kurt attended these meetings, and according to writer and curator Edouard Léon Théodore Mesens, co-director of the London Gallery, close to Schwitters in the English years and his collector, Kurt Schwitters was able to take the best from that uncomfortable everyday life, coming to completely transfigure it with the strength of his poetics.

Never as much as in that context, evidently, it was necessary to remove the poison from things, to remove from it the undesirably historical meaning that they had on them, and to free them to the merz-ability of a new nature. In exchange for the portraits he made in large numbers to both commanders and prisoners, he was granted permission to leave the camp every day and go to a nearby barn, which he used as an atelier. In one and a half years of internment, Schwitters creates more than 200 works, including stinky sculptures of hardened porridge.

“The painter Fred Uhlman, who was in the same camp, has often told me about this period so depressing for most of those interned. But Schwitters’ biographers have not yet told us that our friend was as happy as a lark there. No material worries, regular meals, rest at normal hours and, nearly every evening re-unions of intellectuals exchanging views on art and philosophical matters. There Kurt shone in all his glory. At any time his audience could always count on him: he told his stories each day more and more enriched with detail and reited his poems endlessly… The Ursonate must have been recited from beginning to end numbers of times.”[3]

Richard Friedenthal, before becoming the illustrious author of very famous biographies, such as those of Leonardo, Goethe, Diderot, Luther and Marx, was also interned in the camp of Hutchinson. At the end of that experience, he published a novel, Die Welt in der Nußschale (1956, The world in a shell) thanks to which the environment of the camp, human relationships and the many characters that populated it can be reconstructed. Among these, Schwitters appears under the narrative pseudonym of Baby Bitter.
Baby Bitter Schwitters, the one who in the desolation of war, weakened body and mind beset by fears, still finds the stairway to Paradise, made of flour-based glue, pieces of wood collected in the countryside, and a language that grinds everything it finds on its way. (Translated by P. P.)

[1] Wilson, S., Kurt Schwitters in Inghilterra. In Grazioli, E. (ed.) 2009, Kurt Schwitters, in «Riga» n. 29. Milano: Marcos y Marcos, pp. 227 – 255. Originally: Wilson, S. 1994, Kurt Schwitters en Angleterre. In Kurt Schwitters, catalogue of the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, 1994, Paris.

[2] Mesens, E. L. T. 1958, A Tribute to Kurt Schwitters. In Kurt Schwitters, Three Stories, with a tribute by E. L. T. Mesens, ed. by Jasia Reichardt; Tate Publishing, 2010; p. 23.

[3] Ibid. p. 26



Stairway to Paradise (I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise)

(Ira Gershwin e Buddy DeSylva / George Gershwin)


[Composed for George White’s Scandals, George White’s highly successful variety shows, two are the most famous performances of this song: that of Georges Guétary included in An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli, 1951) and that of Sarah Vaughan (1958). The text is a hymn to dance, celebrated as the shortest way to happiness. But it is also a song that underlines the irresistible power of the absolute desire for joy, which has become a form of daily discipline: training to be happy. Even while sleeping: When you’ve learned to dance in your sleep / You’re sure to win out. But only as long as you work on your soul: If you work it into your soul / You’ll get to Heaven. Soul, psyche, spirit, subjectivity: the song finally advises us to abandon psychoanalysis and go to dance!]

All you preachers
Who delight in panning the dancing teachers,
Let me tell you there are a lot of features
Of the dance that carry you through
The gates of Heaven.

It’s madness
To be always sitting around in sadness,
When you could be learning the steps of gladness.
You’ll be happy when you can do
Just six or seven;

Begin today!
You’ll find it nice,
The quickest way to paradise.
When you practice,
Here’s the thing to do,
Simply say as you go…

I’ll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step every day!
I’m going to get there at any price;
Stand aside, I’m on my way!
I’ve got the blues
And up above it’s so fair.
Shoes! Go on and carry me there!
I’ll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step every day.

Every new step
Helps a bit; but any old kind of two step,
Does as well. It don’t matter what step you step,
If you work it into your soul
You’ll get to Heaven.
Get busy;
Dance with Maud the countess, or just plain Lizzy:
Dance until you’re blue in the face and dizzy.
When you’ve learned to dance in your sleep
You’re sure to win out.

In time you’ll get Saint Vitus dance,
Which beats the latest thing from France.
Take no chances on this Paradise;
Let me give you advice.

I’ll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step every day!
I’m going to get there at any price;
Stand aside, I’m on my way!
I’ve got the blues
And up above it’s so fair.
Shoes! Go on and carry me there!
I’ll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step every day.

I’ll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step every day!
I’m going to get there at any price;
Stand aside, I’m on my way!
I’ve got the blues
And up above it’s so fair.
Shoes! Go on and carry me there!
I’ll build a stairway to Paradise
With a new step every day.

photos above are by Andreea Nedelcu