To ring in the new financial year, Film and Video Umbrella is opening MerzBank
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.
In the spirit of Dada, 1 April will see the launch of a digitally-streamed viral video of Schwitters famous sneeze poem, the preview of an interactive app celebrating Schwitters love of London, and a series of downloadable PDFs that compare the easy circulation of digital images with the limits on freedom of movement faced by people coming into the UK.
All three projects, by artists Alec Finlay, Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard and Nick Crowe & Ian Rawlinson, will feature as part of Late at Tate on 5 April. Forsyth & Pollards digital app will be premiered on the night.
Alec Finlays contribution to MerzBank is an echo of Schwitters famous sneeze poem of 1937, which he scored to replicate the convulsive sound and shape of a human sneeze. Finlay compares the sudden burst of a single a-c-h-o-o to the flowering of the human rhinovirus (aka the common cold) as it develops and proliferates over time. Streaming continuously on the homepage of the MerzBank site, a digital animation, made up of micro-particles of text, captures the beauty of the virus in full flow, while snapshot samples of it will be transmitted through social media, mimicking how the common cold insinuates itself within the general population.
London Onion, Kurt Schwitters poem to the city that became his home, has been turned by Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard into Londonion, a pocket-sized mega-mix of the original, updated for the present as a digital app. Centred on a performance of the poem by comic Stewart Lee, the piece combines verbal and sonic pyrotechnics with the potential for audience interaction that Schwitters encouraged in his art. It responds to the random sounds and fluctuating noise-levels of the immediate surroundings and is completed by short introductory videos, disseminated on YouTube and elsewhere, introducing Londonion to a wider online community.
Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinsons From An is a series of downloadable PDFs that playfully re-imagines the 15 different application forms for residency and citizenship available from the UK Border Agency website, a project which also resonates with key aspects of Schwitters life and reflects on our contemporary desire for freedom of movement.