Gustav Metzger (born April 10, 1926) is an artist and political activist who developed the concept of Auto-Destructive Art and the Art Strike. Together with John Sharkey, he initiated the Destruction in Art Symposium in 1966. Metzger is recognized for his protests in the political and artistic realms.
Metzger was born to Polish-Jewish parents in Nuremberg, Germany in 1926 and came to Britain in 1939 as a refugee under the auspices of the Refugee Children Movement. He has been stateless since the 1940s. It is with an experience of twentieth century society's destructive capabilities that led Metzger to a concentrated 'formulation of what destruction is and what it might be in relation to art.'
In 1959, he published the first auto-destructive manifesto Auto-Destructive Art. This was given as a lecture to the Architecture Association in 1964, which was taken over by students as an artistic 'Happening'.
In 1962, he participated in the Festival of Misfits organised by members of the Fluxus group, at Gallery One, London. His proposal to exhibit the front pages of the Daily Mirror covering the Cuban Missile Crisis was rejected by the organisers Robert Filliou and Daniel Spoerri.
Throughout the 60 years that Metzger has been producing politically engaged works, he has incorporated materials ranging from trash to old newspapers, liquid crystals to industrial materials, and even acid. "
From September 29, 2009 through November 8, 2009, the Serpentine Gallery in London features the most extensive exhibition ever in the U.K. of Gustav Metzger’s work. The exhibit includes the installation Flailing Trees, which consists of 15 upturned willow trees embedded in a block of concrete, symbolizing a world turned upside down by global warming. He feels that artists face a threat that global warming will lead to the extinction of things in nature, which they rely on because nature is such a big inspiration to artists. Metzger stated that “artists have a special part to play in opposing extinction, if only on a theoretical, intellectual basis.” "
Metzger has continued to make challenging art works around the world. He currently lives and works in East London.
Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art
This was originally made in 1960 and remade as Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art in 2004.
Demonstration at the South Bank, London, 1961
Acid action painting
|“||Acid action painting. Height 7 ft, Length 12' 6". Depth 6 ft. Materials: nylon, hydrochloric acid, metal. Technique. 3 nylon canvases coloured white black red are arranged behind each other, in this order. Acid is painted, flung and sprayed onto the nylon which corrodes at point of contact within 15 seconds.||”|
Construction with glass
|“||Construction with glass. Height 13 ft. Width 9' 6". Materials. Glass, metal, adhesive tape. Technique. The glass sheets suspended by adhesive tape fall on to the concrete ground in a pre-arranged sequence.||”|
Liquid Crystal Environment
Liquid Crystal Environment was originally made in 1965 and remade in 2005.
Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art
This was a recreation of the original demonstration made in 1960. An integral piece of the installation at the Tate Britain, a bag containing rubbish, was erroneously disposed by a cleaner on 30 June 2004. Metzger declared the piece ruined and created a new bag as a replacement.
Originally conceived for the Manchester Peace Gardens and commissioned by Manchester International Festival in 2009, this work consists of uprooted trees inverted into a concrete block in a powerful environmental memorandum of man's destructive capabilities and violation of Nature.
Around the same time, he was lecturing at Ealing Art College, where one of his students was rock musician Pete Townshend, who later cited Metzger's concepts as an influence for his famous guitar-smashing during performances of The Who. He has also influenced the self-eating computer virus works by the digital artist Joseph Nechvatal.
- Pioneers in Art and Science: Metzger (film), Ken McMullen (film director) 2004
- Alan Liu, (2004) The Laws of Cool, University of Chicago Press, pp. 330-331.
- Kristine Stiles & Peter Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings (Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by Kristine Stiles) University of California Press 2012, pp. 470-471
- BBC news website
- Hanamirian, Jocelyn. "Gustav Metzger at the Serpentine Gallery London." Modern Painters, September 2009.
- Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art, Tate Online, retrieved 2006-08-30.
- Aesthetic Ideology in the Information Age, USCB, retrieved 2006-08-31
- Liquid Crystal Environment, Tate Online, retrieved 2006-08-30.
- Jones, A. Introduction to the Historic Photographs of Gustav Metzger, Forum for Holocaust Studies, University College London, retrieved 2006-08-30.
- Jones, S. 2004. How auto-destructive art work got destroyed too soon , The Guardian, retrieved 2006-08-31.
- Thomond, Christopher (2009-06-30). "Art and design,Art (visual arts only),Manchester international festival,Exhibitions,Environment,Culture,Sculpture (Art and design),Installation (Art and design)". London: Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
- Alan Liu, (2004) The Laws of Cool, University of Chicago Press, pp. 331-336 & 485-486.