Merzbau and a Shrinking Igloo

[Merzbau money shot via]

Last week while cruising the internets, I couldn’t help but notice a few Merzbau-like projects making the rounds on the blogsphere. First, let’s take a look at Kurt Schwitters’ original live/work environment (above). As photos were prohibited, this first shot was discreetly taken at the Sprengel Musuem in Hannover, where a portion of the Merzbau has been reconstructed.

The next project, El fin del Muundo al techo, was designed and built by Adriàn Villa & Carolina Pinzon. Found via one of my fav blogs, Le Territoire Des Sens. More photos can be found on the artists’ flickr page.And found via Computerlove is this 1996 installation by Australian artist/architect Horst Kiechle. Check out his flickr page for many more of these incredible “archisculptures.”As this merzbau blogslaught was in the back of my mind during a Paul Auster lecture last week, I was reminded of a story told in his short novel “The Locked Room.” Recounted by one of the characters is an amazing (and true?) story about arctic explorer Peter Freuchen and a reduction of space through an unintentional personifcation of sorts.

Trapped by a blizzard in northern Greenland. alone, his supplies dwindling, he decided to build an igloo and wait out the storm. Many days passed. Afraid, above all, that he would be attacked by wolves – for he heard them prowling hungrily on the roof of his igloo – he would periodically step outside and sing at the top of his lungs in order to frighten them away. but the wind was blowing fiercely, and no matter how hard he sang, the only thing he could hear was the wind. If this was a serious problem, however the problem of the igloo itself was much greater. for Freuchen began to notice that the walls of his little shelter were gradually closing in on him. Because of the particular weather conditions outside, his breath was literally freezing to the walls, and with each breath the walls became that much thicker, the igloo became that much smaller, until eventually there was almost no room left for his body. It is surely a frightening thing, to imagine breathing yourself into a coffin of ice, and to my mind …For in this case, it is the man himself who is the agent of his own destruction, and further, the instrument of that destruction is the very thing he needs to keep himself alive. 

Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. But the idea of breath-space or breath architecture is amazing and beautiful.

1 reply on “Merzbau and a Shrinking Igloo”

But it’s perfectly natural for ones breath to be the agent of ones own destruction. The igloo is like a spaceship running out of air, the enclosing walls a metaphor for carbon dioxide. Is this not true? It feels to me like Auster is creating a false dichotomy here. Life produces waste and uses up resources.

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