Tribute to Gustav Metzger

We wrote letters but received no replies. One of us pushed a note under the door of his flat in London. Then we were able to speak to him. But the tape recorder had to stay off.

He was born in Nürnberg. His parents, orthodox Jews, and nearly all his other rela- tives were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. When the Refugee Children Movement saved him in 1939 and brought him to England, he was twelve. Twenty years later he gave his first individual exhibition entitled Three Paintings by G. Metzger in a London café.

Half a century ago he published his first manifesto, in which he defined his notion of Auto-Destructive Art:

Auto-destructive art is primarily a form of public art for industrial societies.

Gustav Metzger, South Bank, 1961

Gustav Metzger, The South Bank, 1961

At his South Bank Demonstration in London in 1961 he presented Auto-Destructive Art for the first time in a public space with acid action painting. A few years later he developed Auto-Creative Art. He was a founder member of the Committee of 100, which was dedicated to opposing nuclear war and weapons of mass destruction, he took part in demonstrations and was sent to prison in Staffordshire for a one month sentence.

He performed his Liquid Crystal Projections in the 1960s at concerts of the bands The Cream and The Move in London.

His lectures inspired Pete Townshend to smash his guitar on stage. 

Gustav Metzger, Wolf Vostell and Al Hanson

Gustav Metzger, Wolf Vostell and Al Hanson at The Destruction In Art Symposium, The Africa Centre, Covent Garden, London, 1966 (photo: Tom Picton)

In 1966 he initiated and organised the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) in London, in which numerous artists took part, including Bob Cobbing, Henri Chopin, Ivor Davies, Al Hansen, Juan Hidalgo, Kurt Kren, John Latham, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Otto Mühl, Ralph Ortiz, Yoko Ono, Robin Page, Wolf Vostell and Peter Weibel.

General Overview of DIAS

General Overview of DIAS. Ono visible in centre in back row of audience. (photo: Tom Picton)

Years without Art: In the 1970s he called an Art Strike which was supposed to last for three years, but at that time no-one wanted to take part. In contrast, in response to our invitation to contribute to the project Tribute to Gustav Metzger the acceptance letters were soon flooding in.

Demonstrations, manifestos, concepts, exhibitions – it is an unsettling, radical life- work which gives a subjective, appropriate response to the destructive mechanisms of the twentieth century and the present, and which invites people to contradict it, comment on it and refer to it. In Justin Hoffmann, who has long concerned himself with the subject of Destruction Art, we found the right man to act as curator of the Tribute project.

Katarina Agathos / Herbert Kapfer


Designing a Tribute to Gustav Metzger is a challenge in every respect. Not only be- cause there is a fundamental difficulty in transferring the production and thought of a fine artist to radio and CD, i.e. onto an acoustic level, but also because Metzger’s oeuvre itself is bulky enough to cause complications when handling it. I am therefore all the more grateful to all involved who were not afraid to take the risk. An invitation to take part in this project was issued to fine artists who are currently friends of Metzger (Eva Weinmayr, Lee Holden) or who were previously in communication with him (Yoko Ono). Others are from the field of music, e.g. Cobra Killer, Ted Gaier/Mense Reents or Carl Oesterhelt. But most work in both domains and combine music and art in a wide variety of ways in their cultural practice. The compilation of the tribute tracks is as discriminating as it is varied. It cannot necessarily be charac- terised in terms of the relevant cultural origin. Some contributions are based more on the word and others produce sound collages without text. A not inconsiderable num- ber have created songs. Some of the lyrics quote Metzger directly and others reflect on him. Various work groups and strategies of Gustav Metzger are appreciated on the CD – the references go in various directions. The majority of the tracks relate to his notion of Auto-Destructive Art, but some also to his notion of Auto-Creative Art with its components of accident and variance. Michaela Melián refers to Metzger’s call in the 70s to rock the art system and transform it with a three-year art strike. On Melián’s track one can also hear Gustav Metzger’s voice, which is looped and thereby determines the rhythm. All those involved, and not least Bayerischer Rund- funk, share the wish to appreciate with this work the unique oeuvre of Gustav Metzger. We hope he likes this present.

Justin Hoffmann, Wolfsburg, 1.9.2008


Excerpt Yoko Ono: A Night In Warsaw from Tribute To Gustav Metzger
(Intermedium) from WIRE: Adventures In Modern Music, 20 Nov 2008.
Stream here, download here.

CD2, Track 1
Yoko Ono: A Night in Warsaw (3:29)

      A Night in Warsaw
      For Gustav with love

Artist: Yoko Ono. Produced by Yoko Ono.


Tribute to Gustav Metzger
Intermedium rec 036
ISBN 978-3-939444-63-3
Release: 05 Dec 2008

1 Rhythm King and her friends I quote „Destroy she said“ 2:35
2 Carl F. Oesterhelt Boltzmann Patterns 4:18
3 Eva Weinmayr Ahhhh! Contagion Mentale! 3:05
4 POLLYester Wow Waltz 4:27
5 Dennis Graef Counterpoint for Gustav Metzger 2:17
6 Mosh, Mosh Metzger 404 4:01
7 Max Müller Zugabe zur Wahrnehmung 6:49
8 Lee Holden Slippin’ and Sliding 6:31
9 Ted Gaier / Mense Reents vom erbe das wir mit den fäusten
ausschlagen wollten 7:02
10 Frau Kraushaar & Nova Huta Reggae Healing 3:44

CD 2
1 Yoko Ono ANight in Warsaw 3:29
2 Catriona Shaw Tee-rocket 4:16
3 Anton Kaun Zerstörgerät 2:34
4 Michaela Melián ArtStrike 5.56
5 AnnaMcCarthy My Generation 3:13
6 Schwestern Brüll feat. Raumschiff Engelmayr Fade out 3:27
7 Cobra Killer Lullaby for the destructed braincell 3:38
8 StewartHome / Nigel Ayers Genetically Modified Metzger Manifestos 4:36
9 Dompteur Mooner Voices on the lost track 3:01
10 Melissa Logan the art strikes back 3:18
11 Wolfgang Müller Die Nachtigall vom Prinz-Albrecht-Gelände 7:01

All Intermedium releases available here.