Page 18 - Studio International - December1996
P. 18

Excerpts from selected papers

                                                presented at the 1966 Destruction in Art


                                                ance to reveal their understanding of their   All of these destructions and infinite numbers more
                                                                                         are all adjustments inherent in the evolutionary stage
                                                activity is usually in the interest of con-
                                                                                         of our own physical and biological universe. They serve
                                                tinuing productivity.                    no distinct species survival or stabilizing purpose.
                                                 An audience responding to destructive art   Our tragic dilemma is that because of our limited
                                                                                         psychological evolution we have unwittingly insti-
                                                is potentially of great interest to the psycho-
                                                                                         tuted our biological and physical limitations. We have
                                                logist. It is not difficult to make snap   instituted the ultimate destruction of our species. Our
                                                assessments of the effects of violent art   science, our laws, our education, our economics all
                                                                                         reflect our physical and biological evolutionary limita-
                                                forms on the spectator. It is more desirable
                                                                                         tions. Evolution is a destructive adjustment, there is
                                                to study the reality by means of cameras,   no concern for survival in evolution, only adjustment.
                                                tape-recording of audience reactions imme-  Survival is an abstraction made possible through psy-
                                                                                         chological evolution.
                                                diately after the event, followed by long-
                                                                                          It is through the advantage of a psychological evo-
                                                term research. The value of such studies   lution beyond that of our biological and physical
       The Destruction in Art Symposium, held   would not be confined to psychology.     universe that mankind can realize the necessary
       in London this September, was attended   Aesthetics, in its slow progress to becoming   compensations and adjustments in destruction and
                                                                                         thereby secure that unnatural but most humane
       by a number of artists and writers from  a science, would benefit by joining in this   ideal, the survival of the species.
      abroad, and attracted a great deal of atten-  research.                             It is within this framework that I perceive a value for
      tion. Much of the attention was directed to                       Gustav Metzger   destructivist art. I  believe destructivist art gives our
                                                                                         destructive instinct its essential expression while
      the 'events' organized around the sympo-                                           coming to terms with destruction's most primitive,
      sium—Ralph Ortiz's piano-smashing, John                                            maladaptive aspects—aspects that ordinarily would
                                                Destructivism can only be misunderstood   prove to work for the destruction of the species
       Latham's burning of towers of books, the
                                                and abhored by a confused civilization   rather than its survival.
       proposal to stage 'ritual' killings of chic-                                       It is because art is a symbolic synthetic process that
                                                anxious and self-conscious of its own
       kens and animals (a proposal which was                                            it can become the means by which to further human-
                                                powers of total annihilation. Destructivist
      abandoned), etc.                                                                   ize our species. By bridging the gap between the
                                                Art could easily be interpreted as the final   good and the evil art absorbs the evolutionary limita-
       We publish here, as documentation,                                                tions of our species without threatening its biological
                                                aesthetic realization of a nihilism that will
      excerpts from selected papers read at the                                          or psychological survival.
                                               engulf us all. Destruction can be  Good  or   That we have been timid in exploiting these possi-
      Symposium, with an introductory statement
                                                Evil.                                    bilities is best expressed in the difficulty most of us
      by Gustav Metzger, secretary of DIAS.                                              will have in accepting Destructivism as Art or for that
                                                 It is generally understood that destruction
                                                                                         matter assign such purposes as I do to Art.
                                                is essential to the nature of things and that                        Ralph Ortiz
                                               without it nothing could be. Destruction is
      In the context of the possible wipe-out of
                                                built into our species. If we could not des-
      civilization, the study of aggression in man,
                                               troy we would not survive for one moment.  Three kinds of obsolescence are defined in
      and the psychological, biological and
                                               Our species destroys in the most funda-   V. Packard's Waste Makers:
      economic drives to war, is possibly the most
                                               mental sense to live, we destroy in the more  1. Functional obsolescence: a technical
      urgent work facing man. A central idea of
                                               human sense to realize ourselves. Our  improvement replaces an older product.
      Destruction in Art Symposium was to iso-
                                               lungs destroy, our blood destroys, our  2.  Psychological obsolescence: changes of
      late the element of destruction in new art
                                               stomachs destroy. We slaughter cattle, cut  styling are forced in products, so that they
      forms, and to discover any links with des-
                                               down forests and smash atoms all in order   look out of date quickly—womens' fashions
      truction in society. A glance at the list of
                                               to be.                                   as studied by Detroit Motors.
      headings for Symposium papers makes this
      clear. ART: Architecture, film, Happenings,
      language, music, plastic arts, theatre.
                                               Gustav Metzger Stateless, born 1926; studied paint-  Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, N.Y., and Washing-
      SOCIETY: Atmospheric pollution, creative
                                               ing and drawing with David Bomberg; published   ton Gallery of Modern Art.
      vandalism, destruction in protest, planned
                                               first auto-destructive manifesto in 1959; auto-creative
      obsolescence, popular media, urban       art manifesto 1961.                      José Luis Castillejo, Juan Hidalgo, and Walter
      sprawl/overcrowding, war. SCIENCE: Bio-                                            Marchetti members of the Spanish group ZAJ. The
                                                                                        group was founded about two years ago by Madrid-
      logy, economics, medicine, physics, psy-  Ralph Ortiz  American, born 1914; represented in   based Spanish artists, writers, and composers.
                                               Museum of Modern Art, N.Y., and Whitney Museum
      chology, sociology, space research. (These
                                               of American Art; has published manifestos on des-
      subjects were to be treated in specific relation                                  Joseph H. Berke, M.D.  American; psychotherapist
                                               tructive art.                            and poet; helped found Free University of New York.
     to destruction and aggression.)
       It was hoped that artists would discuss   Ivor Davies British, born 1935; artist; has participated   *DIAS hopes to organize a second symposium in
     their reasons for engaging in art forms that   in many group exhibitions; lecturer in Department of   the summer of 1967.
                                               Fine Art, Edinburgh University; made first destruc-  **The Happenings in Prague illustrated in the
      include the actual destruction of materials.
                                               tive art demonstration using explosives in Britain.   October issue of Studio International (pages 210-211)
     Of course it is difficult for artists to probe the
                                                                                        were organized by Milan Knizak; photographs of the
     motive power of their art, and any reluct-                                         events were exhibited by DIAS.
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