This is an opportunity to introduce you to two remarkable web sites presenting Kurt Schwitters’s Ursonate and related resources. These are the sites of Jack Ox, an artist who works in the area of visualisation and metaphor. She began her work in visualisation by encoding works of music that she transformed into paintings. Her largest and most important project is a transcription and rendering of Kurt Schwitters’s Ursonate.
Jack’s first web site is at
When you are there, be sure to see the page that shows the Ursonate projected as a full transcription of the 800-foot-long painting for the Digital Dome Theatre at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Jack is now doing full-stage sound performances of the Ursonate with performance artist Kristin Loree, and she is selling the full painting to raise funds for the not-for-profit Intermedia Projects organisation. You can see several of the exhibitions of the Ursonate at
with links to her earlier Ursonate site at
The project had a fascinating relation to art history and intermedia. In the process of this project, Jack discovered a long-lost recording of Schwitters himself performing the Ursonate. Until this discovery, no one knew how Schwitters himself performed the work. The only available document was the full score by Jan Tschichold. The tape was authenticated by Schwitters’s son, Ernst, and made into a CD that was published by Wergo. Jack wrote the notes:
More recently, an alternate and hitherto-unknown setting of the Ursonate was discovered in the Jean Brown collection at The Getty Archives. This is the basis of an interesting article by Nancy Perloff titled “Schwitters Redesigned: A Post-war Ursonate from the Getty Archives,” Journal of Design History Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 195-203. Unfortunately, several images cannot be shown in the .pdf due to copyright issues. The doi is:
The catalogue to the Muzeum Sztuki Lodz exhibition of Jack Ox's visualised and painted rendition of the Ursonate is available on her Academia page, along with her PhD thesis on metaphor and several of her articles. (Full disclosure: I was Jack's thesis supervisor and a contributor to the Lodz catalogue.) Jack is currently a research fellow in the art and science program at the University of Texas at Dallas, and an editor of the art/science journal Leonardo.
These materials will interest anyone with a fascination in Kurt Schwitters’s work, as well as those interested in data visualisation, metaphor, and the growing areas of art-science collaboration and intermedia. Intermedia Projects will interest those who are developing collaborative projects in the tradition established by Fluxus artist Dick Higgins.
Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | 设计 She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the-journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/
Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| University Distinguished Professor | Centre for Design Innovation | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia