Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tribute to Gustav Metzger


Tribute to Gustav Metzger


Feat.: Anna McCarthy - Anton Kaun - Carl Oesterhelt - Catriona Shaw - Cobra Killer – Dennis Graef -
Dompteur Mooner - Eva Weinmayr - Frau Kraushaar & Nova Huta Lee Holden - Max Müller -
Melissa Logan - Michaela Melián - Mosh Mosh - POLLYester - Rhythm King and her friends -
Schwestern Brüll feat. Raumschiff Engelmayr - Stewart Home / Nigel Ayers -
Ted Gaier / Mense Reents - Wolfgang Müller - Yoko Ono

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 relatives 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.

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. 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.

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 lifework 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 because 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 characterised 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 number 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 Rundfunk, 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

intermedium rec. 036
ISBN 978-3-939444-63-3

Saturday, 27 December 2008


'Supertoys' at the Arnolfini is an exhibition - and related events - exploring toys, emotional machines and play. Artists, technologists, children and adults examine how toys operate as transitional objects in allowing feelings to be carried between the human subject and the external world.

There’s an enclosed area on the floor where little round robot vehicles, each with coloured lights attached, are whizzing around. In SWARM SYSTEMS (Bristol Robotics Lab) these little robots are running on an algorithm programmed by Jan Dyre Bjerknes that produces both collision avoidance and swarming behavior. Chaotic patterns emerge as the robots interact with each other and the confines of the real world pen, a complex behavior similar to a very primitive life-form.

Next to this is a rectangular pond, in which you are invited to pilot some radio-controlled decoy ducks. New York artist Natalie Jermijenko has been taking parties of schoolchildren out and about with her ROBOTIC GEESE AND DUCKS (picture below) to see how real ducks and geese interact with her radio-controlled ones. Jermijenko’s ROBOTIC FERAL DOGS are fixed to the wall and lie on a table in various states of repair. These are toy robot dogs which look like they’ve been modified and customized with additional circuitry. A video monitor shows New York kids playing with these robots in a patch of wasteland; captions inform us that they are using these to investigate new uses for chemically polluted waste ground. The artist is using the play element of the robot dogs and ducks to get children interested in science subjects like nature study.

In another pen next to this are a number of soft toy-like objects. Dunne and Raby's HUGGABLE ATOMIC MUSHROOMS (picture above). And this is where the show gets slightly confusing. The workshops here are clearly hands-on events for kids, but these pieces use the conventions of gallery art sculpture. They are objects that look like soft toys, but which take the shapes of an atomic mushroom clouds. In this context you would expect them to be something children could handle and play with, but it turns out they are huggable by name only. They are displayed as representational sculptures of cuddly fallout clouds that you're supposed to look at but not touch. It says in the catalogue: the design is intended to help control individual anxiety about such a threat through rationality, rather than common responses of paranoia or denial. So, while many artists elsewhere have produced art with anxiety-producing imagery to encourage agitation, education, and organization against the arms trade, it seems Dunne and Raby are suggesting a more infantile response of “Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”. Perhaps this cuddly toy approach may be an appropriate therapeutic response when dealing with children and adults traumatized by the realities of (state-) terrorism. But it poses a couple of questions: should fear or avoidance responses based on a fact of modern history be medicalised as symptoms of “paranoia” or “denial”? And if children and adults are programmed with false ideas which override their natural fears of death and mass extinction, is that a good idea?

A small sign at the entrance to the next room warns you of naked dolls. In a side room with subdued lighting are more soft toys - ones you are allowed to handle - by UNMASK GROUP (picture left). These are the size and shape of adult humans. They have detachable features such as genitalia, so you can change their gender if you want. There is also CODE MANIPULATOR'S TOOLBOX a load of plastic letters spread out on the carpet, a set of cut-out Ones and Zeroes, to play with on the carpet.

There's some overtly commercial art in here. A screen downstairs shows Chris Cunningham's four minute promotional video for Bjork's 'All is Full of Love' with CGI robots displaying human emotion (picture below right). But if you want to watch this video properly the wall of this exhibition isn’t really the place: the sound is turned off, the video is here to is attract attention to the upstairs galleries.

Up at the top of the building in a little gallery room to itself, showing on a hand-size DVD screen is 'The Writer' by Philippe Parreno (picture below). This is a loop showing a close up of a 1700s automaton hand writing out a quote from a Marx Brother's film. There are clanks, scrapes and whirrs on its soundtrack. But somehow I don't think it is really a programmed robot or an autonomous machine we are watching. It reminds me of The Mechanical Turk, a chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century by Wolfgang von Kempelen (picture below right). The Turk was a humanoid machine which appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent. Although this was publicly promoted as an automaton and given its common name based on this appearance, the Turk was in fact an illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. On this video, I suspect that the Writer’s hand is likewise being worked like a puppet.

The best part of this show is the activity in a workshop room on the first floor. Children and adults are breaking apart and using glue guns to reassemble lots of old plastic toys, making them into MUTANT TOYS (picture bottom left). Each remixed toy is added to shelves full of the little monsters, each with labels with titles and funny little stories about the toys composed by their makers. Though these are all small scale pieces that take a few minutes to make, the sum total is often more bizarre and amusing than what some highly skilled adult artists manage to achieve with this kind of material. That’s the beauty of surrealist techniques like 3D cut-ups, they are such great levelers. I see they are running a workshop where kids are encouraged to “pitch” their own toy designs to a panel of young experts. Hmm - so much for utopian ideals of leveling - the kids are being encouraged to mimic the competitive behavior of the entrepreneurs you see on Dragon’s Den. In Mutant Toys the use of recycled, salvaged materials means the use-value of obsolete toys is extended. But then these are only toys. It's something for kids. It’s all very trivial stuff. The re-assembled toys will all go into the skip when it's finished, and then on to land-fill or dumped on some third-world doorstep.

Yes, it’s nearly Christmas and all around there’s talk of a world recession. Among its complex causes is the massive over-production of consumer items, including toys for children. The multi-million dollar toy industry is based around the manufacture of desire, implanting friendly looking characters, logos and must-have gadgets into children’s fantasy lives to make them ready for an adult world centered on the acquisition of emotionally-charged objects. These items become worthless once their novelty has expired, and so they pass into car boot sales, charity shops and end up dumped in toxic heaps for third world children to pick their way through. I wonder to what degree this programming can be questioned or disrupted in exhibitions such as Supertoys. Surely what constitutes a toy is an object designed to be played with, whereas the videos, mushroom clouds and swarm system are all art objects (ie consumer objects) which impose a passive response. I also wonder if there is a clear difference between toys acting as “transitional objects” for children and art objects acting as “transitional objects” for adults.

With all of this happening in the Arnolfini, it isn’t at all obvious what is supposed to be touched and what is not to be touched. You have to quickly learn very complex protocols to understand how to view, or use, or join in with, the art. One of the points of Fluxus (which features heavily in the parallel artists books exhibition at the Arnolfini) was a utopian attempt to demystify art and to make it something to be played with. It was against serious culture, emphasizing the value of non-competitive play in a light-hearted attack on the division of experts and non-experts, artists and non-artists within a class- based society. As a serious cultural institution, the Arnolfini has to put the concept of play secondary to the re-imprinting of codes of status within the dominant culture.

An Arnolfini steward says to his friend: "Of course it's not really art, it's a crowd pleaser. You have to do these. The next show's more like it - it's an Angus Fairhurst retrospective, the first one since he killed himself."

Nigel Ayers 22/12/08

Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol, BS1 4QA


review for www.artcornwall.org

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Unidentified Contents

Unidentified Contents
54 x 68 x 68 MM, 145 GRAM

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Noise and Politics

Industrial music - no thanks! Noise and politics - yes please!
One of the things I always disliked about the Industrial music scene was its abject failure to engage in a progressive debate about noise and politics. It just didn't, because it was all about "art" and promoting individualist hero worship. So, because of structural faults and a lack of politicised critique within its copycat fans, in its current version it has allowed a tiny "apolitical" scene to develop in which the propaganda produced by some extreme right wing elements has become regarded as acceptable. I'm sick of it and that is why I've been turning down a few "myspace friends" requests lately.

On the other hand, I can recommend an interesting magazine which has emerged though the breakcore scene, which seems to at least attempt to engage in noise and politics from a vaguely leftist (and pro-technology) perspective.

"DATACIDE 10 is OUT NOW: with 56 pages the biggest datacide so far, it's full of features and reviews.
Secessionist Outernational: Self-Exile and Poetry, Howard Slater: Convergent Suggestion - on Surrealism and Organisation, JR: Denial Networks - On Crisis and Continuity in the 9/11 Truth Movement, Neil Transpontine: A Loop Da Loop Era - towards an (anti-)history of Rave, CF: Radical Intersections, Controlled Weirdness: You're Too Young to Remember the Eighties - Dancing in a different time, The Reverend: More than just a Night out - Rave as confrontation, Dan Hekate: All things fall and will be built again, Rafael Castellanos: Visible and invisible fragments of experiences (About Bogotrax festival), Hans-Christian Psaar: Commodities for the Jilted Generation, Alexis Wolton: Teknival and the emancipatory potential of technology, Riccardo Balli: Audio-Philosophical Dwellings.
Stewart Home on Peter Whitehead and the Sixties, Nemeton on Boris Mikhailov's Unfinished Dissertation, JR on "The Description of Bankruptcy", CF on François Genoud, Balli on "Situationism on Wheels", CF on "Battlenoise!" and the ideology of Martial Industrial, Plus record reviews, charts, Bloor Schleppy, End of Vinyl?, Pencilbreak and more.
available for EUR 3.00 from praxis.c8.com/catalog now
or from good stores and mail orders soon!"

Saturday, 6 December 2008



It's Saturday, 29th November 2008. I'm in Bristol . I'm in the lower gallery space at the Arnolfini and suspended on steel wires are a number of plastic sleeves each containing a book. These books are all titles authored by artists, the earliest of which dates back to 1963. They range from small edition, hand made or home-computer-printed books produced for gallery exhibitions, to editions by celebrity artists such as the 2000 Simon and Schuster edition of Grapefruit by Yoko Ono and the Aperture Foundation 2007 edition of photographic cards Shuffle by Christian Marclay. To the side of this display is a plain formica- topped table on which stand two computer monitors and three table-top lecterns.

There are cards on the table with the following text:


1. Only one book per person may be requested at a time

2. To avoid the transfer of grease and dirt to collection items, please use the gloves provided. Hand wipes and paper towels are also available on request.

3. Handle all items as little as possible. Pages must be turned carefully. Avoid leaning on books or papers as this may damage the binding structure or tear the paper.

4. Where appropriate, please use the book beds and snake weights to hold pages open.

5. Books may only be viewed whilst seated at the desk. If you wish to make notes, use pencils only.

6. Absolutely no food or drink (including water) is allowed in the exhibition space.

I attempt to take a photograph of this arrangement of books, chairs, tables and computer monitors, but I am intercepted by a young woman I assume to be a member of gallery staff. She instructs me that it is alright to take photographs but first I must sign a form. The form has been printed by what looks like a photocopier process on two sides of a sheet of white 80 gsm paper cut to A5 size with two holes punched along one of the long sides. The printing is parallel to the long edge of the paper and contains the following text, set in Arial font:

Copyright - Agreement Form



wish to make a copy of the following artists' work

[Please specify artist and work]

* personal use: for private study or research.

* Educational Instruction: limited to the work being copied in the course of instruction or preparation for instruction.

I understand that any use of the copy taken for purposes other than ticked above may constitute an infringement of copyright for which the copyright owner could take action against me.

There are spaces where I sign and date this agreement. This is countersigned and dated by the young woman "(on behalf of Arnolfini)".

I turn over the piece of paper to read the obverse.


Recording, photography and copying of any artistic performance, work or film is not permitted under the terms of Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (and subsequent amendments).

Should you wish to make copies or such work and/or distribute, rent or loan, adapt, perform or broadcast you should always seek the permission of the copyright owner or obtain an appropriate licence.

Personal Use

Arnolfini has reached an agreement with the artist(s) for permission for visitors to take photographs of their work for personal use only. You are requested to complete a copyright agreement form fully for authorisation before you take any photographs.

Educational Use

Arnolfini has reached an agreement with the artist(s) for permission for educational organisations, groups and schools visiting Arnolfini to make photographic/drawing/film copies of their work for educational instruction purposes only. The group leader is requested on behalf of their organisation/school to complete a copyright agreement form fully for authorisation before your visit/workshop/tour begins.

Press and Publicity Use

Arnolfini will have reached agreement with all artists for permission to use copies/images of their work for press and publicity purposes. Requests for such material must be made to Arnolfini's Marketing Department, who will require you to complete a copyright agreement form for authorisation before any copies of artists work are taken or made.

Should you subsequently use any copy of work taken, for a purpose not authorised, or which constitutes an infringement of copyright, you could be liable to prosecution by the copyright owner.,

Unauthorised recording, photography and copying of any artistic performance, work or film within Arnolfini is not permitted.

I notice that throughout this document the Arnolfini gallery, is referred to as "Arnolfini" and not "the Arnolfini" as it was known formerly. And as I notice that, I hear the implant in my brain softly whisper: "In "Arnolfini" rather that "the Arnolfini" affectation the art gallery is reinvented. "The Arnofini" can be read as an association of human beings grouped around a physical space. Without the "the" this association becomes a projection of a human essences and physical space that have been alienated and abstracted. It is not Arnolfini and his wife, it is a form of artificial life: "Arnolfini" , the corporation!".

Returning to the table, I pick up another piece of paper, this time an A3 sheet of paper folded down to an A5 size, the Exhibition Guide. This informs me that "this exhibition explores a specific tendency in artists' bookworks to generate an energetic series of events and activity. Focusing on books that either offer sets of instructions to the reader, or are themselves derived from instructions,the books look to unsettle the usual distinctions between writers and readers, artists and audiences, and act as prompts to their readers to go beyond the conventions of reading.

Much of this work has roots in the practices of the 1960's Fluxus artists."

On one side of this sheet is a BIBLIOGRAPHY, a list of 72 publications which refers to the books in the plastic sleeves. I recognise another rock star on the list, Bill Drummond, others on the the list I associate with "happenings", pop art, performance art, and relational art. Allan Kaprow, Jan Dibbets, Clause Oldenberg, Lawrence Wierner, Wolf Vostell, Victor Burgin, Liam Gillick, Fiona Banner, all the usual suspects. Most of the authors are represented in this collection by one to four books, the exception in this list is Steven Paige, who is credited with twelve books. Steven Paige's name also attracts my attention as I am aware that he lives in west Cornwall.

Library by Steven Paige comprises a small bookshelf fixed to the gallery wall on which are displayed a few books in plain white, black lettered dust-jackets. There is a level of ambiguity in the display, are these real books or are they false books for display purposes only? I refer back to the Exhibition Guide: You may join The Library by filling in the form provided and handing it in to a steward, including details of books you would like to see in the library collection. Every week the artist will update the bibliographies, and new books will be added to The Library. if you decide to become a member, you are welcome to return to the exhibition to see your books displayed on the shelves.

It's a nice piece and as I fold the paper, the implant in my brain whispers "I think my local library has a better idea, there you can actually borrow the books, and if you want you can read them...."

But the softly spoken implant in my brain is interrupted by a burst of static, through which I can make out the ring-modulated words: "That's the 2000 edition of Yoko Ono's Grapefruit they are handling with white gloves there it is currently available at Amazon for £9.89, Christian Marclay's Shuffle retails for £19.95. While many of the other books on display are rare and reach high prices among collectors, surely the value of dematerialised art is the use-value of the actions rather than exchange-value of the books as objects? If the use- value as an energetic series of events and activity is important why not supply cheap digital reproductions of the original texts, which can be handled while you engage in an energetic series of events, without fear of damaging precious books?"

I think this must be a second implant in my brain speaking.

And now the first implant starts up with the seditious whisper "Central to 1960s Fluxus was the idea that its simple, inexpert, bizarre, events were presented as possibilities for an iconoclastic insight into the nature of reality itself. In the 1963 Fluxus New-Policy Letter No. 6 Fluxus-founder George Maciunas outlined his proposed actions against "serious culture" for Fluxus in New York, broken down into four main areas:

a) Pickets and demonstrations
b) Sabotage and destruction
c) Compositions
d) sale of Fluxus publications.

And now the second implant is barking out all Dalek-like: "The rigidly controlled way this exhibition has been presented highlights the current fashion for a depoliticised, corporate aesthetic. The audience is put through a series of pointless, bureaucratic events. The utopian current is contained by repressive rituals and pointless activity!! "

And now the first implant ,with a hypnotic phrasing like you might get on a mind-programming CD, says: "Or is the whole show an elaborate hoax set up to take the piss out of art-nerds? Never mind, today is 29th November! It is Buy Nothing Day! Buy Nothing Day is a simple idea, which challenges consumer culture by asking us to switch off from shopping for a day. Some suggestions for an energetic series of events and activity to do on Buy Nothing Day can be found on http://www.buynothingday.co.uk

The Cover of a Book is the Beginning of a Journey

22 November 2008 - 18 January 2009

Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol, BS1 4QA


Thursday, 4 December 2008

Crunch Art not Credit!

"I was asking people to send any money that they have found which has been changed in some way. I put it out there as an idea on my website and someone sent me some so I want to keep it going now."

Here's the latest. A decorated 10 Deutschmark.
Translated into English:
"Art = Capital"

It's a bit retro, I think the artist should have used Euros.

As we move into a more abstract information - based economy, the opportunities for individualising interactions, like handing over altered, worn, mucky cash are lost. It all becomes ones and zeroes. It's not as if money is abolished, it becomes this equivalent information code kind of thing, and the codes get more and more impersonal. So why not strike a blow against the information economy. Take part in this guerilla mail art project.

Write a message on, or decorate some paper money (any denomination). Or just send me your worthless Euros, Dollars and Yen. You don't need to decorate them if you don't want to. I need something to burn this winter.

Open entry - no returns.

Mr N Ayers
Earthly Delights
PO Box 2
PL22 0YY