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Artistic Collaboration

Discover the role of collaboration and play in Dada.


Kurt Schwitters

El Lissitzky
(Russian, 1890–1941)

1924. Gelatin silver print, 4 1/4 × 3 7/8" (10.8 × 9.8 cm)

In 1922 El Lissitzky traveled from his native Russia to Weimar, Germany, where he met Kurt Schwitters at a conference for progressive artists. Lissitsky’s fragmented double portrait of Schwitters, made by layering negatives during the photographic printing process, is indicative of the artists’ close collaboration, which lasted until Lissitzky returned to Russia in 1925. While Lissitzky imparted to Schwitters an interest in the crisp geometry of Russian painting from the time, Schwitters introduced Lissitzky to the photomontage process with which this work was made. The influence of Dada is evident in Lissitzky’s fragmented visual language and the floating backdrop of excerpts from Dada publications. The word “Merz” figures prominently, a reference to Schwitters’ invented term for his literary and artistic pursuits.

A term describing a wide variety of techniques used to produce multiple copies of an original design. Also, the resulting text or image made by applying inked characters, plates, blocks, or stamps to a support such as paper or fabric.

A representation of a particular individual.

A collage work that includes cut- or torn-and-pasted photographs or photographic reproductions.

A previously exposed and developed photographic film or plate showing an image that, in black-and-white photography, has a reversal of tones (for example, white eyes appear black). In color photography, the image is in complementary colors to the subject (for example, a blue sky appears yellow). The transfer of a negative image to another surface results in a positive image.

A term invented by the artist Kurt Schwitters to describe his works made from scavenged fragments and objects.

An artistic and literary movement that grew out of dissatisfaction with traditional social values and conventional artistic practices during World War I (1914–18). Dada artists were disillusioned by the social values that led to the war and sought to expose accepted and often repressive conventions of order and logic by shocking people into self-awareness.