Posted on March 3, 2014
Fairy tales are handed down from mothers to daughters, and from fathers to sons. As they are passed on, the tales grow in the telling – or gradually depart from the original, as new elements get added, or others get cut. Steeped in memories of childhood, nursery rhymes and other bedside stories seem to speak with the authentic voice of pre-history, and forge a direct link to that bygone past. Although this is an enchanting notion, the reality is that these age-old fables are always something of a patchwork: the product of different authors, at different times.
The party line about Kurt Schwitters was that he was many things: poet, performer, painter, prankster (and permutations of the above). It’s less often noted that he was also a writer of children’s stories – a playful, avuncular spirit with a penchant for the macabre and the absurd. A number of Schwitters’ captivating children’s tales form the basis of Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s Merzschmerz, a series of short videos in which children revisit what they remember of each recently-read story, and relay it in the company of an adult (family member, neighbour, guardian or friend). As the children furrow their brows in concentration, or smirk in advance at the funny things they are about to impart, their excited faces are echoed by the indulgent, quizzical smiles of the adults, creating a moment of togetherness, and adding to the pieces’ infectious charm.
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella for MerzBank. Supported by Arts Council England.