Because… (2013) [ installation at Tate Britain, 2013 ]
Because… [installation incorporating three works]
Frank Lloyd Wright Room; The Kaufmann Office, 1937, designed for the Kaufmann Department Store in Pittsbugh, USA.
Panels of swamp cypress plywood and mixed media.
(Collection of V&A).
Single screen video with 5.1 sound
8 mins 6 secs.
Too Soon, Too Late.
(The delivery of KCommerzbank stationery to Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn, Ambleside, Cumbria, in anticipation of the eventual relocation of the bank’s Head Office).
40,000 sheets of KCommerzbank letterheaded stationery, cardboard boxes, and leaves.
Because... evolved through Chodzko’s attempt to empathise with the remote but important relationship between the artist Kurt Schwitters, in the final years of his life in the late 1940’s, living in poverty and exile in England’s Lake District, and J. Edgar Kaufmann, the wealthy owner of the Kaufman Department Store in Pittsburgh, USA.
This research into the international psychological and material context for Schwitters’s Lake District work and the individuals and institutions who became drawn into his projects there led Chodzko to an office designed in 1937 by the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright for Edgar J Kaufmann within his Pittsburgh department store. It was Kaufmann who arranged a grant of $1000 that MoMA, NY wired to Schwitters while he was living in poverty in Ambleside so that he could continue being an artist and create the Merz Barn. The office was later donated to the V&A and Chodzko reconfigured it at Tate Britain in the manner of Schwitters’s Merz structures in order to house a new video work, Knots.
Chodzko sees the interior spaces that Schwitters and Kaufmann worked within as unstable, flowing, collaged together, as though becoming a Merz themselves, whilst the form of the video also echoes this process of construction and deconstruction. Chodzko imagines these transformations as being caused by a vacuum, sucking in thoughts, desires and matter, all caught up in the vortex of a dream-like surreality formed by the emptiness of the Merz Barn, lacking its interior Merz work, itself displaced, removed to a Newcastle museum in 1965. Chodzko draws in the furthest edges of the Schwitter’s story in a performed attempt to conclude it, tie up its multiple ‘loose ends’ and make an ‘ending’.
With Too Soon, Too Late, the final element in this process (and the third element in the installation), Chodzko proposes that one of Germany’s leading banks, Commerzbank, from which Schwitters appropriated the word Merz, is relocating to the Lake District. Apparently, having been delivered over-enthusiastically ahead of the move, boxes of Commerzbank headed paper have been stacked up in the Merz Barn entrance in Elterwater, as though sealing it off, a bung to its supernatural forces. Before being presented at Tate Britain this excess stationary has sat there for months, covered in fallen leaves and soaking up rainwater.
The imagining of bodies and buildings merging together in order to catalyse change also appears in works such as Secretors (1993), Hole (2007) and Holding the Earth this Way (2022)
Adam Chodzko discusses Because… in Ooze, a performative lecture (originally staged at Tate Britain): “An excavated thinking in parallel” about the making of Because..., in which Chodzko combines fact and fiction, text and moving image in order to build an elaborate narrative about longing, creation and fragmentation, endings and beginnings, networks of people and isolated individuals, separations and notions of home.
Because... was commissioned by Tate Britain and Grizedale Arts in 2012 for Tate Britain’s Schwitters in Britain exhibition