Dada in Hannover was largely a solo operation of the artist Kurt Schwitters. Though geographically removed from other artists, Schwitters acted as a conduit for dadaist ideas, which he spread through his magazine and contacts with other avant-garde artists. He expanded the dadaist interest in collage when, beginning in 1918, he constructed works made from the detritus of modern life, such as used ration cards, newspapers, and other trash gathered on his daily outings. Schwitters' use of fragments was an analogy for society shattered by war and traditional culture torn asunder by modernity. With a nod to the dadaists' delight in neologisms, Schwitters dubbed his new pictures "Merz," which he defined as "the principle of using any material."
In Schwitters' Picture with Spatial Growths, the assembled parts include theater ticket stubs, a stamped and metered envelope, lace, transportation tickets, and candy wrappers. No longer an object of quiet contemplation, the work of art now is flooded with the mundane scraps of the artist's life to form a chaotic visual diary. Picture with Spatial Growths is a particularly poignant example; Schwitters worked on the picture for more than two decades and was forced to take it with him to Oslo, where he spent much of World War II in exile. Many of the pasted items bear that city's name.