Merz Principle

The ‘Merz Principle’ is described by Friedman as a random agglomeration of things that form a whole. The ‘Merz Principle’ applies to the whole nature of existence. He regards reality as a process or processes, not as a sum of isolated facts. He finds that otherwise perfect mathematical models are unable to describe these processes and that a more fitting presentation of reality would be a sequential description.

He explained this referring to his dog Balkis who is utterly able to understand the world without the aid of mathematical formulae. He sees his dog as an intelligent observer. To Friedman real intelligence starts out with improvisation to be able to find ideas, as Newton and Einstein did. While understanding the world as a manifestation of the ‘complicated order’, an unpredictable agglomeration of sequences, those ideas are found within this erratic reality and explained afterwards.

This is how he sees that the process of creativity is usually exercised: finding images and rationalizing them afterwards as if the makers have worked through rational principles while in fact the creation was an emotional process. To Friedman this process is the heart of creativity, a process that not only implies its creator, but also its spectator who completes the process by adding his own associations to it. He finds it a vital conception that while making a work of art, somebody else might actually add something to it. He experienced that this is frequently understood as an error of aesthetics downgrading the artwork, but he sees no error from the actual human point of view.

To Friedman the city is a ruin when the designed and constructed world is devoid of the users reality. He sees that planners have the impossible task “to satisfy the complicated order of behavior”, while this in fact is erratic because it is impossible to draw information from one step in a person’s behavior to the next.

Friedman started experimenting with this philosophy at the occasion of the project ‘Merz Structures held at the Café Voltaire in Zurich in 2006. In calling this the ‘Merz principle’ Friedman refers to the work of Kurt Schwitters, who made art by gathering and combining random objects including litter, into installations. To make his models Friedman himself more often than not, used litter and waste materials by understanding their properties as qualities ready to have a new life. Also when third parties would work his ideas into objects to be used in exhibitions, he is known to have refused some of them while considering them being too slick.

Emballage chocolat, 1990: models of packaging materials
Merz Structures, from 2000: playful compositions made of various materials
Merz Structures Zurich, 2006: studies for a project at Cabaret Voltaire

Related projects and studies
Note: Nearly all models made by Friedman are made of waste materials.
Rubbish is beautiful, Venice, 2003
Nuit Blanche Paris, 2004
Merz structures Zurich, Switzerland, 2006 and 2011
Exhibition in CAPC Bordeaux, 2008
Street project Los Angeles, 2009
Balkis Productions, from 2009
Artwork (I)