From Elterwater to Eidsvatnet: All Paths Lead to Water

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Abstract

Guy Moreton

From Elterwater to Eidsvatnet: All Paths Lead to Water

The recurring motif of water is particularly symbolic in the wandering journeys of Kurt Schwitters, Ludwig Wittgenstein and W.G Sebald. The terraqueous landscape of the west coast of Norway was attractive to Wittgenstein who lived in a hytte overlooking Lake Eidsvatnet in Skjolden at the inner end of the Sognefjord between 1913 and 1951, where the combination of natural beauty and remoteness were conducive to his rigorous intellect.

Kurt Schwitters spent much of his time in the 1930s living and working on his Merz in a primitive woodshed on the island of Hjertøya near Molde, also on the west coast of Norway not too far from Wittgenstein's retreat in Skjolden. The narrative of Schwitters' journeys in Norway between Moldefjord, Djupvatnet and Oslofjord in the 1930s and his time living and working in Elterwater in the English Lake District until his death in 1948 form much of the thinking behind the premise for the exhibition Unrecounted (2012). This brought together for the first time, a number of photographs of the landscapes in Norway, the English Lake District, and Suffolk where Wittgenstein, Schwitters and Sebald walked, contemplated, inhabited and thought through.
Much of these landscapes are defined through their proximity to water; indeed it is arguably the very essence of the relationship between land and water that has helped form much of contemporary cultural history exemplified through Wittgenstein's work on logic and language, Schwitters' avant-garde concrete poetry, performance, and transformative art or W.G Sebald's wonderfully exquisite description of the lost city of Dunwich, literally and metaphorically ruined and drowned in the North Sea and mythologised in our imagination.

Dr.Robert Macfarlane wrote a short essay for the Unrecounted exhibition (2012), and he asks two questions that I would like to reframe for this paper: firstly, what do I know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else? And secondly, what does this place know of me that I cannot know of myself?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWater : Image
Subtitle of host publicationPlace, Poetics, Politics, Materiality
Publication statusUnpublished - 4 Jul 2012

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    Moreton, G. (2012). From Elterwater to Eidsvatnet: All Paths Lead to Water. Unpublished. In Water : Image: Place, Poetics, Politics, Materiality