… I had accepted the transience, the dribbling away, the brevity, the impermanence, the fading, the withering, the spookishness of our existence.
… The search for an unattainable perfection, the delusion that a work could be completely finished, became a torment. I cut the papers for my collages with extreme precision and smoothed them down with a special sandpaper. The slightest loose thread or fiber was intolerable to me. The tiniest crack in a bit of paper often led me to destroy a whole collage.
[line break added] This frenzy ended in a tragedy when I was asked to exhibit some old collages I had done in collaboration with Sophie Taeuber. This accident taught me the true meaning of perfection and finish. The word perfection means not only the fullness of life but also its end, its completion, its finish, and the word “accident” implies not only chance, fortuitous combination, but also what happens to us, what befalls us.
[line break added] We brought down the collages from the attic where they had been exposed for years to heat, cold, and dampness. some of the papers had come unstuck, they were covered with spots, mold, and cracks, and between paper and cardboard blisters had formed that looked more loathsome to me than the bloated bellies of drowned rats.
[line break added] When after many weeks of confusion I had calmed down a bit, I began to tear my papers instead of cutting them neatly with scissors. I tore up drawings and carelessly smeared paste over and under them. If the ink dissolved and ran, I was delighted. I stuck my collages together with a wad of newsprint instead of pressing them carefully with blotting paper, and if cracks developed, so much the better; as far as I was concerned, it made my work more authentic.
[line break added] I had accepted the transience, the dribbling away, the brevity, the impermanence, the fading, the withering, the spookishness of our existence. Not only had I accepted it, I had even welcomed transience into my work as it was coming into being. These torn pictures, these papiers déchirés brought me closer to a faith in things other than earthly. … The divine dream is a bridge between too much and too little. This dream is a fundamental part of my plastic search; similarly Sophie Taeuber created her luminous dream between coming-into-being and passing-away.