Art: The Urban Poet

As a Scavenger Kurt Schwitters' Collages Receive a Long-Overdue Retrospective

Take a dentist's drill, a meat grinder . . . Take lights and deform them as brutally as you can. Make locomotives crash into one another . . . Explode steam boilers to make railroad mist. Take petticoats and the like, shoes and false hair, also ice skates.

So runs one part of a scenario for total theater, as imagined soon after the infinitely worse chaos of the First World War by a German collagist, poet and would-be dramaturge, Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948). The scenario casts a long shadow. Schwitters' ambition to assault all the senses with a megalomaniac collage of real...

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