Gustav Metzger: Writings



Anthology of Writings

Bringing together more than 350 texts written between 1953 and 2016, this comprehensive volume establishes artist and activist Gustav Metzger (1926–2017) as one of the most inspirational figures of the 20th century, recognition of which is long overdue. Renowned for his use of unstable materials and chemical reactions to create artworks that embody processes of change, destruction, and renewal, Metzger was also a prolific writer, theoretician, and lampoon-maker. His interest in technology and science lead him to create such concepts as auto-destructive and auto-creative art—terms he coined with his manifestos on “Auto-destructive Art” in 1959 and “Auto-creative Art” in 1961—introducing the ideas of artworks made to decay and disintegrate or that would change following natural processes.

Edited by Gustav’s long-time friend and curator Mathieu Copeland, this anthology of writings is making Metzger’s essential thinking from the 1950s onwards available to a wide audience. It notably includes seminal writings such as his Auto-Destructive Art and Auto-Destructive Art, Machine Art, Auto Creative Art manifestos (both 1961), On Random Activity in Material/Transforming Works of Art manifesto (1964), The Possibility of Auto-Destructive Architecture essay (1966), his inspiring Interview with Buckminster Fuller from 1970, The Artist in the Face of Social Collapse essay (1998), and his legacy manifesto entitled Remember Nature from 2013, as well as art criticism pieces, political lampoons, and lectures transcriptions, deploying his multifaceted thinking. All together, his writings allow a challenging reading of the contemporary (art) times as analyzed by one of his most discerning figures—a pioneering artist and thinker very early involved in environmental and societal issues.

Born in Nuremberg to Polish Jewish parents, Metzger escaped Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport, traveling to England in 1939. As a refugee in post-war Britain he became politically engaged, joining protest movements and becoming involved in direct action for nuclear disarmament. Horrified by destructive used of technology, he moved away from his traditional training in painting and sculpture and set about creating to “confront society.” His work was recently shown at the Serpentine Galleries in London in 2009, and at the MAMAC Nice in 2017.