Merzz 80 Zeichnung 130 is an early Merz collage made by Kurt Schwitters in 1920 during the time of inflation, revolution and counter-revolution in Germany that followed the end of the First World War. In this era of complete moral, political and financial bankruptcy, when paper currency had lost its value and only food, work or lodging remained commodities of real value, other than gold or foreign currency, Schwitters, alone in Hanover, established his own one-man avant-garde and declared the 'Merz' revolution.
'Merz', which took its name from a fragment of the words 'Kommerz und Privatbank' was an artistic revolution in which art and life were to be merged through the 'business' of assembling fragments and detritus of modern life into new glorified forms and expressions of the triumph of the human spirit. 'At the end of 1918 I realized that all values only exist in relationship to each other and that restriction to a single material is one-sided and small-minded,' he wrote. 'From this insight I formed Merz, above all as the sum of individual art forms, Merz painting, Merz poetry.' (Kurt Schwitters, Sturmbilderbuch, 1920, cited in J. Elderfield, Kurt Schwitters, New York, 1985, p. 49)
As Schwitters' friend and neighbour in Hanover, Kate Steinitz recalled, at this time Schwitters was frequently to be seen on the streets of Hanover, 'a crazy, original genius-character, carelessly dressed, absorbed in his own thoughts, picking up all sorts of curious stuff in the streets... always getting down from his bike to pick up some colourful piece of paper that somebody had thrown away.' (Kate Trauman Steinitz, Kurt Schwitters, A Portrait from Life, Berkeley, 1968, p. 68). From these fragments Schwitters constructed poetic and miraculous constellations expressing a new formal language that spoke of a hidden order amongst the apparent chaos.
'In poetry, words and sentences are nothing but parts,' Schwitters explained, 'their relation to one another is not the customary one of everyday speech, which after all has a different purpose: to express something. In poetry, words are torn from their former context, dissociated and brought into a new artistic context, they become formal parts of the poem, nothing more.' (Kurt Schwitters, quoted in Elderfield, op. cit. p. 43) The same logic applied to the Merzbilder.
Constructed from torn cloth, tram tickets and painted scraps, Merzz 80 Zeichnung 130 is an early Merzbild - a typically whimsical and poetic construction of abstract form and language forged from the detritus of a society in collapse.