Wednesday, 20 May 2015


Awareness of the sonic environment has been a feature of the North Walney project, and the idea of Sound as Resource led to some good research and composition in the weeks leading up the Merzbarn visit.
We began again at the Armitt in Ambleside. These visits have been vital for demonstrating the breadth of Schwitters' approach, and for dispelling any over romantic idea of the artist as a rural eccentric. These children are themselves from a environment of contrast; at any turn Barrow's current and former industrial landscape can either merge or contrast  with the natural and managed landscapes of the Furness Peninsula and Walney Island. The Armitt has provided us with a point to follow up classroom discussions about Schwitters' background , his importance to the 20th Century art and  and the circumstances that brought him to Cumbria. There is scope for a greater look at Schwitters' story in other areas of the curriculum, and we hope to persue this in a later project. The Walney group are a little older than some of our children , and their questions and comments have demonstrated an awareness of the practicalities behind a project like the Merzbarn, and a great appreciation of   the Armitt's collection.  We are grateful to the Museum and its staff for their support.

The work on site included listening exercises, and recording written impressions. The Langdale Art trail provided an excellent vehicle for the close observation and engagement with place we asked for from this group.  At the Merzbarn the children were introduced to some surprise visitors.   Martin Bagness is a well-known figure in Ambleside, an Olympic medallist Orienteer and climber he also runs Bilbo's cafe and writes music with South Cumbrian traditional musician Mike Willoughby.  Martin explained to the children that he lives in Schwitters' old flat, and has made it his mission to learn about the man and his life .

Martin brought with him his own Slate Lithophone, tuned to 3 octaves of C and played with Golfball beaters.
Amy integrated work with the lithophone into  percussion pieces, using the metre of sections of the Ursonata.  

The clay relief work produced a number of good results, the children were provided with a selection of new and corroded hardware, plastics, coins and other materials associated with construction and assembly rather than the natural landscape. They were asked to think about the properties and form of the materials, and to make careful selections as to what they used and where they placed them in the clay.
Amy plans to use the sound recordings made today alongside those made earlier as elements in  a long form sound piece to be further developed back in school. The group will make and edit  further recordings, with the intention of broadcasting them to radios scattered around the site, an idea we  were introduced to by  Schwitters devotees Mobile Radio, friends of ourselves and of  the Octopus Collective and based in Germany.


  1. Great project! Here is writing a #kurtschwitters Fan from Germany!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments Bibi, we shall include your link in a later post.

      All the best from John and the Artspace team.