Gustav Metzger has gone. Dead at 90. In some circles he is best known, if its true but who cares either way, (in the days way before way before online dating) for bringing john and yoko together, their auras coalescing and stewing into something at his landmarking mid60s Covent Garden show I didn’t attend at the time, and for breaking a million guitars as entertainment. Although Gustav didn’t do that. He might also be said to be the dad of it. John and Yoko, great. After all they broke the Beatles didn’t they? That’s an artistic statement. Inspiring Pete Townsend to break up his guitar, purportedly ain’t bad either, everyone else who followed that particular path, well I’d stand there thinking, might be better to just give that guitar away to someone who can make a better use of it. Or even less use of it would be fine too. But that’s not the point. Although I did quite enjoy the the moment when guitarists swap out the dear one for the cheap copy they’re going smash up. I am a love artifice not art.
In some ways Gustav Metzger set out to destroy art of course, and who could blame him. At a time when the CIA were pumping the big money into NY’s Abstract movement, Gustav made unambiguous statements about the corrupt and fucked up world he inhabited. There were burn-ins. His auto destructive art could last all afternoon. How much he must have wanted to die in the past 60 years as art became nothing when not commoditised. Can you imagine Metzger’s discussions with gallery owners? “And afterwards the client gets a small pile of toxic waste…”
This quote is reproduced from the Guardian this morning "When I saw the Nazis march, I saw machine-like people and the power of the Nazi state. Auto-destructive art is to do with rejecting power.”
You know he was a refugee, Gustav, his life saved from the Nazi’s by Kindertransport. If one of those kids staring across the channel from Calais today could get an ounce of compassion and get over here, maybe in a decade or so they might set out on a path to destroy art too. Where would they start? I’d love to see.
Gustav Metzger gets the outsideleft treatment here:
Henderson Downing - Smash It Up
Kirk Lake - 300 Words from London: Psychedelic Lights and Burned Out Lions