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Course Materials

Gustav Metzger

Selections from Gustav Metzger, from Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings, ed. Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1996), pp. 401-4

"Auto-Destructive Art" (1959)

                  Auto-destructive art is primarily a form of public art for industrial societies. Self-destructive painting, sculpture and construction is a total unity of idea, site, form, colour, method and timing of the disintegrative process.
        Auto-destructive art can be created with natural forces, traditional art techniques and technological techniques.
        The amplified sound of the auto-destructive process can be an element of the total conception.
        The artist may collaborate with scientists, engineers.
        Self-destructive art can be machine produced and factory assembled.
        Auto-destructive paintings, sculptures and constructions have a life time varying from a few moments to twenty years. When the disintegrative process is complete the work is to be removed from the site and scrapped.

Gustav Metzger, "Auto-Destructive Art"(London, 4 November 1959), in Metzger at AA (London: Destruction/Creation, 1965).

"Manifesto Auto-Destructive Art" (1960)

Man in Regent Street is auto-destructive.
Rockets, nuclear weapons, are auto-destructive.
Auto-destructive art.
The drop drop dropping of HH bombs.
Not interested in ruins, (the picturesque).

        Auto-destructive art re-enacts the obsession with destruction, the pummelling to which individuals and masses are subjected.
        Auto-destructive art demonstrates man's power to accelerate disintegrative processes of nature and to order them.
        Auto-destructive art mirrors the compulsive perfectionism of arms manufacture—polishing to destruction point.
        Auto-destructive art is the transformation of technology into public art.
        The immense productive capacity, the chaos of capitalism and of Soviet communism, the co-existence of surplus and starvation; the increasing stockpiling of nuclear weapons—more than enough to destroy technological societies; the disintegrative effects of machinery and of life in vast built-up areas on the person . . .

        Auto-destructive art is art which contains within itself an agent which automatically leads to its destruction within a period of time not to exceed twenty years. Other forms of auto-destructive art involve manual manipulation. There are forms of auto-destructive art where the artist has a tight control over the nature and timing of the disintegrative process,and there are other forms where the artist's control is slight.

        Materials and techniques used in creating auto-destructive art include: Acid, Adhesives,Ballistics, Canvas, Clay, Combustion, Compression, Concrete, Corrosion, Cybernetics, Drop, Elasticity, Electricity, Electrolysis, Electronics, Explosives, Feedback, Glass, Heat, Human energy, Ice, Jet, Light, Load, Mass-production, Metal, Motion picture, Natural forces, Nuclear energy, Paint, Paper, Photography, Plaster, Plastics, Pressure, Radiation, Sand, Solar energy, Sound, Steam, Stress, Terra-cotta, Vibration, Water, Welding, Wire, Wood.

Gustav Metzger, "Manifesto Auto-Destructive Art" (London, to March t960), in Metzger at AA (London: Destruction/Creation, 1965).

Auto-Destructive Art, Machine Art, Auto-Creative Art (1961)

        Each visible fact absolutely expresses its reality.
        Certain machine produced forms are the most perfect forms of our period.
        In the evenings sonic of the finest works of art produced now are dumped on the streets of Soho.
        Auto-creative art is art of change, movement, growth.
        Auto-destructive art and auto-creative art aim at the integration of art with the advances of science and technology. The immediate objective is the creation, with the aid of computers, of works of art whose movements are programmed and include "self-regulation." The spectator, by means of electronic devices can have a direct bearing on the action of these works.
        Auto-destructive art is an attack on capitalist values and the drive to nuclear annihilation.

Gustav Metzger, "Auto-Destructive Art, Machine Art, Auto-Creative Art" (London, 23 June 1961), in .Metzger at AA (London: Destruction/Creation, 1965).

"Manifesto World" (1962)

everything everything everything everything
A world on edge of destruction. Objects become precious, matter becomes subject to feeling of reverence. This is an art form for artists. The mass of people appreciate Modern art 50 years after its practice. This art form will not be subject to this time lag since it is unlikely that in so years' time there will be a world in which to practice it.

An art of extreme sensibility and consciousness.
We take art out of art galleries and museums. The artist must destroy art galleries. Capitalist institutions.
Boxes of deceit.
Events happenings. Artist can not compete with reality.
The increasing quantity of events, happenings. Artist cannot integrate within himself all the experience of the present. He cannot render it in painting and sculpture.

New realism. The most vital movement now. However inevitably its course now is one of increasing commercialisation.
Nature imitates art.
New realism was a necessary step toward the next development of art. The world in its totality as work of art. Including sound. Newspapers.
New realism shows the importance of one object or relationship between a number of objects. This obviously is the first step to a large ensemble, the total relationship of objects including the human figure.
You stinking fucking cigar smoking bastards and you scented fashionable cows who deal in works of art.

There was a time when there were men and animals.
And men painted men and animals.
Then gods and kings came and men painted gods and kings.
Then men sat in carriages that moved over the earth and men painted carriages.
And now men fly to the stars. And men paint flying to the stars.
At this moment in London millions of men millions of objects millions of machines. Millions of interactions each fraction of a second between men objects and machines.
Day and night inventors create new machines objects that will be produced day and night.

The artist's entire visual field becomes the work of art. It is a question of a new artistic sensibility. The artist does not want his work to be in the possession of stinking people. He does not want to be indirectly polluted through his work being stared at by people he detests.

The appropriation by the artist of an object is in many ways a bourgeois activity.
An element of condescension, superiority to workman.
Profit motive—this is now worth xxxx franc because I have chosen.
The artist acts in a political framework whether he knows it or not. Whether he wants to or not.

The quantity of experience the artist has to pack into a work is so vast now, it is not possible to compress it all into the space of an object.
The acceptance, substitution of World is thus not an escape from production.
The Door by Robin Page is the catalyst of the new aesthetic.

Gustav Metzger, "MANIFESTO WORLD" (10 June 1962), in Metzger at AA (London: Destruction/Creation, 1965).

On Random Activity in Material/Transforming Works of Art (1964)

        Certain major forms of art can be described as the drawing of belief.
        A belief in molecular theory and related definable and undefinable beliefs, intuitions, shared with scientists and others, can best be stated by material/transforming works of art. Auto-destructive art, auto-creative art are forms of material/transforming works of art.
        To "draw"in any other manner would be to kill the spirit and capture a mere fragment of the reality.
        Random activity, and tangential problems of quality, are now critical and productive problems in art.
        Random activity of the work of art escalates an extension of accepted (unproductive) concepts of art, nature and society.
        If all factors of a work are understood, each moment is predictable. A great deal of "random" equates with ignorance. The presentation of activity with the minimum of ordering by the artist is belief at its maximum.
        The artist desires and achieves a certain form, rhythm, scale: intends, and identifies with,all the transformations, predictable and unpredictable, that the work is capable of.
        At a certain point, the work takes over, is in activity beyond the detailed control of the artist, reaches a power, grace, momentum, transcendence . . . which the artist could not achieve except through random activity.

Gustav Metzger, "On Random Activity in Material/Transforming Works of Art" (30 July 1964), in Metzger at AA (London: Destruction/Creation, 1965).

this page by Alan Liu, last rev. 4/11/04

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