I was surprised and honoured — and in the event, not a little moved — to be asked to speak at the 85th birthday celebration of the artist Gustav Metzger, which I attended in London recently.
Among the many other friends and colleagues who had gathered to celebrate this important day were Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson of London Fieldworks, Alastair Brotchie of Atlas Press, Alan Sutcliffe of the pioneering Computer Arts Society, composer Kaffe Matthews, The Arts Catalyst curator (and Performance Magazine founder) Rob La Frenais, Andrew Wilson, Curator of Modern & Contemporary British Art at Tate, Ingrid Swenson of Peer, and my former Arts Council colleague Bronac Ferran.
Following a short and eloquent speech (reminding us of absent friends) and toast by Andrew Wilson, it seemed apt that I should read an excerpt from my new short story, ‘Auto-destructive Arts Policy’, which is dedicated to Gustav Metzger. The title refers of course to Metzger’s 1st and 2nd Manifestos: Auto Destructive Art, 1959, and Manifesto Auto-Destructive Art, 1960.
As discussed in the previous post, this story was written partly to test the satirical potential of applying the ‘cut-up technique’ to two source texts: Metzger’s own 1974 call for an ‘art strike’ and the ‘Creative Ecologies’ speech made at the State of the Arts conference in February 2011 by the Right Honourable Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. I had wondered what kind of new text might be created by remixing these two originals, and whether that new text might reflect back critically on both sources as well as forming the basis of some sort of critical response to the work of artists Rupert Ackroyd and Alison Turnbull.
As well as being, you know, a good story… You can judge that for yourself, as the full text of ‘Auto-destructive Arts Policy’ is reproduced in the previous post, but the cut-up sequence at the centre of the story ends with a couple of sentences that I found much more difficult to read aloud, in public, than I had expected. The words really caught in my throat:
The government is passionately committed to smothering art and the denial of labour is our chief weapon. To bring down the art system it is necessary that people who once practised art never regain their creative spirit; to eradicate it in every corner of the country.
‘Auto-destructive Arts Policy’ was commissioned by the Russian Club Gallery and published on 30 March 2011 to accompany the current exhibition by Rupert Ackroyd and Alison Turnbull, which runs until 7 May. The story is published as an A3 folded pamphlet which is available free to gallery visitors while stocks last.