Thursday, May 19, 1983

Liquid crystal environment

I was still tired when I got up this afternoon and I felt weighed down under the realisation of everything I have to do. So I wrote a letter to Claire and did little else instead, and at five thirty I went to the Millikin Arts Centre to see a presentation by Gustav Metzger, founder of Auto-Destructive Art.

His presentation was in a small circular room illuminated by a circular skylight in the middle of the ceiling. On a table at one side stood two sheets of glass, which were face-to-face but separated by a tiny gap of a few inches. Next to this were two glass sculptures, looking rather like bubbles on stems. Framed by the glass, Mr. Metzger himself stacked a pile of doughnut shaped pieces of paper which looked like giant polo-mints. He was small, balding and bearded and had a pleasant face.

At last, with twelve people assembled, he began his talk, and traced his artistic evolution from Art College in the mid-‘fifties right up through the present day. He formulated Auto-Destructive and Auto-Creative Art at the end of the 1950s, and published several manifestoes around that time.

At a big public demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art on the South Bank he sprayed sheets of nylon with acid, simultaneously creating colour patterns by destroying the nylon forms. He held up a photocopied picture of the remnants to show us: a few fluttering shreds of nylon were stuck to the frame. “It was totally destroyed” he said, with satisfaction. He spoke very quietly and in halting tones, and occasionally his voice trailed away almost into nothing and we had to strain to catch everything he said.

He claimed that the 1966 international symposium on Destructive Art was an event without precedent before or since. In the ‘60s he also organised one of the first public showings of coloured liquid crystals—these he rotated over a light source as they continually melted and recrystallised, displaying myriads of different colours as they did so.

He illustrated the idea of auto-destruction by using the panes of glass and the doughnut-shaped pieces of paper. As he blew between the panes of glass and dislodged the doughnuts from their initial pattern, sending some rolling across the table and onto the floor and settling others into new configurations, images were created and destroyed simultaneously. . . . He also dribbled paint down the sides of the glass.

Nowadays his interests lie with organizing international conferences, even though in the 'seventies he urged all artists to commit to a three-year boycott of the capitalist art establishment. He got a totally negative response to this idea, although he did go ahead and embark on his own personal boycott which he now sees—a smile here—as “foolish.” I got the impression he was a bit conceited, a "bit of a toe-rag" as Gavin put it later.

Rowan had very kindly offered to make me and Barry shepherd’s pie, roast potatoes and rhubarb crumble, so I had to leave mid-way through question time at the end, but my mind spun in predictable directions. Maybe Lee needs a seriously worked out manifesto for what he’s doing?

Later when I went to Westway Loop for one drink. Katie was again asking me questions which I answered as best I could: No, I find the bar dissatisfying. No, I’m not really that close to many people, etc., etc.

No comments:

Google Analytics Alternative