Facing Extinction, The Exhibition – Gustav Metzger





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Gustav Metzger at Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury 
17th October – 15th November 2014

Opening: 16th October, 6.00 -8.00 pm

In March 2013, artist and political activist, Gustav Metzger presented a lecture about his work to the Farnham Fine Art department. During the lecture his final question was: “what are you going to do about extinction?” As a direct consequence of his lecture, a project titled Facing Extinction began between Farnham Fine Art department and the artist.

FACING EXTINCTION – AN EXHIBITION at Herbert Read Gallery, Canterbury is the third of the three Facing Extinction events this year. The exhibition presents an ambitious re-working of Metzger’s seminal work Mass Media: Today and Yesterday,also presented at James Hockey Gallery, Farnham in March 2014. Thousands of newspapers are stacked in a rectangular mass in the centre of the gallery space, collected and sourced by staff and students from UCA Farnham and Canterbury campuses. Addressing the capitalist consumption of goods and information that threaten the planet’s ecological survival, Metzger states “I want this work to be useful, to emphasise the dangerous environment in which we live – events of life and death that can lead to extinction.”

For the duration of the exhibition, the visitors are invited to clip articles from newspapers related to the topic of “extinction” and pin them to the gallery walls. Metzger’s installation is a work in a state of flux; continually changing and growing as visitors add newspapers to the stack. Interestingly, Herbert Read and Gustav Metzger were both early members of the Committee of 100 and participants in the first demonstration in February 1961, outside the Ministry of Defence, London.

Gustav Metzger will also present his first digital work as part of the Extinction Marathon: Visions of the Future on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th October, a special live transmission from Facing Extinction on www.todayandyesterday.co.uk – linking the two sites of the Serpentine Galleries in London and Herbert Read Gallery in Canterbury. Throughout the two day broadcast, Fine Art students from Farnham and Canterbury will be found in a dynamic activation of Metzger’s work, selecting, cutting and collaging articles across the gallery walls in response to the subject of extinction.

Central to the two exhibitions at UCA galleries was FACING EXTINCTION – A CONFERENCE, held at Farnham Campus in June 2014. Over two days, the conference programme included presentations by artists, scientists, ecologists, architects and other specialist academics focusing on long-term action against mass extinction, including an evening of performance art in the spirit of the Destruction in Art Symposium (1966). The conference was divided into four themes: ‘Technology and Resources’, ‘Global Systems: Food and Water’, ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Biodiversity’, each posing the question: how can we radically limit the ongoing decimation of nature? 

Metzger reiterates that “The art, architecture and design world needs to take a stand against the on-going erasure of species – even where there is little chance of ultimate success. It is our privilege and our duty to be at the forefront of the struggle. There is no choice but to follow the path of ethics into aesthetics1. We live in societies suffocating in waste. Every time you consider buying a new laptop or mobile phone, you need to recall the agonizing photos of young men, prematurely aged, who spend their shortened lives dealing with the toxic technology discarded by our civilization.”2

About the Artist

Born to Polish-Jewish parents in 1926, Gustav Metzger and his brother were evacuated to London with 10,000 other Jewish children as part of the Kindertransport from Nuremburg in 1939. In a recent interview, he stated that “facing up to the Nazis and the powers of the Nazi state coloured my life as an artist.”  For the last six decades, Metzger’s work has reiterated the role of the individual act as a catalyst for social and ideological change. He is an artist known for his radical approach and his work responds directly to political, economic and ecological issues. Creating manifestos and events in the UK since the early 1960s, he developed the concept of Auto-Destructive Art and the Art Strike, which addressed destructive drives both in capitalism and the art industry.

The project was initiated by the Fine Arts Department at UCA, Farnham. Exhibition curated by Andrea Gregson, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art. With support from ICR – Interregional Culture-led Regeneration program.

Contact: Emma Braso, Cultural Programme Curator at Herbert Read Galleryebraso@ucreative.ac.uk (Tel:  01227 817471) or Andrea Gregson, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art agregson@ucreative.ac.uk (Tel: 01252 892820) For more information aboutFacing Extinction visit: www.ucreative.ac.uk/galleries orwww.gustavmetzgerucafarnham.wordpress.com

1. Ethics into Aesthetics also relates to the symposium of the same name, held in Norwich, organised by Gustav Metzger in 2005

2. Extracts from Gustav Metzger’s Facing Extinction conference statement June 2014.


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