Conceptual Art: None Of It Is Real, All Of It Is Beautiful
It discredits me that, as a lifetime lover of The Who, it took me most of that lifetime to discover conceptual art’s killer app,”auto-destructive art”. I must have at some point stored the fact that Who kingpin Pete Townshend took his cue for his famed guitar smashing from one Gustav Metzger, the father of “Auto-destruction”, his manifesto on which, and work, this year has had a profound impact on my own.
Metzger, Kindertransport refugee to Britain, spent the rest of his long, modest and marginal life here until his death earlier this year, devoting it to expounding and creating “auto-destructive art” to protest capitalism and systemic injustice.
Not a surprise that a survivor of the Holocaust, one of the towering acts of human auto-destruction, should so be devoted; what’s remarkable is the defiance, tenacity and intent Metzger brought to his calling and vocation: Disgusted by the rise of the monied artist, he campaigned for an “art strike” whereby an artist would voluntarily produce no new work for three years in order to regenerate, and rebel against an art world increasingly corrupted by commercialism.
Hence, latterly, Metzger is becoming more recognised as the prophet and pioneer of the age, on a par with Kafka, Burroughs and some others. For most of his life he lived precariously and in virtual obscurity, beloved of a few fellow travellers, and fanatical outsiders. In death, his dignified wading against the tide of mediocrity and conformity is more than ever a warning that destruction is a conceptual bonanza but as mutual human habitude is a disaster.
Auto-destructive art and auto creative art aim at the integration of art with the advances of science and technology. The immediate objective is the creation, with the aid of computers, of works of art whose movements are programmed and include “self-regulation”. The spectator, by means of electronic devices can have a direct bearing on the action of these works. – Gustav Metzger, Manifesto of Auto-destructive Art, 1960
Gustav Metzger, born in 1926, developed the concept of Auto-Destructive Art where destruction was part of the process of creating the work. In this TateShots the artist reflects on his long and influential career. Themes of political activism and engagement are heavily rooted in his work.
Destroy All Music
My own great initiation into auto-destruction was, I suppose, late Seventies punk rock. The core nihilism, conceptual chaos and vengeful sound of it at its best – captured nowhere better than by California spilt brats The Weirdoes on their iconic two minute diatribe, “Destroy All Music” – could focus formidable energies.
Punk’s great progenitors, The Stooges, I once described as “making cave paintings with a power drill”. That drill, for many, made holes out of which poured magnitudes of pent-up and belligerent hostility to the norm.
Harnessed, it was a rocket to a moon inhabited by cheesy people it sought then to decimate. We hear alot about the Summer of Love, but for me it was The Summer of Hate, in the UK for the first time in 1977, that did for me. London that hot summer carried a lacerating energy. What was real inside you spilled out to make into forms of mania malleable into any artform conceivable. You couldn’t say that the sky was the limit. Our eyes were on the gutter, but we found that it has no limit – the sky is just its bitch.
Destroy All Music 7″ (1977) BOMP! Records
I always figured myself for an artist. Uncomfortably, spending most of my artistic life on words and music, being an actual artist – a pictures person – seemed elusive. I embraced the art thing via spirituality and mysticism. My empathy for anything nothing drew me into epic experiential investigations of everything from Zen to Advaita Vedanta, and teachers the same yet different as Krishnamurti and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Consequently, I dug deep into art’s rich history variants of nonduality. And happened upon Metzger.
His Manifesto of Auto-destructive Art galvanised me, triggering successive conceptual detonations yielding my own “nonceptualism“. The combination of technology and an active nihilism drives me on mindlessly, making “memes” covering multiple themes, from the plain political to the nether regions of the Void.
With Plasticon, an electronic music project collaboratively conceived and executed over some years with LA mastering engineer and eletronic music composer Don Tyler, some coordinates for the break with previous modes of expression were set. The work we did became more and more conceptual, words less important, and the sound finally a randomised machine pulse. But even that had to go; exhausted with saying everything literally, the freedom of visual art is exhilirating and endlessly novel.
The Ultimate Secret Of Nonceptual Art? None Of It Is Real, All Of It Is Beautiful
From the EP “Travel In Peace” from Illuminated Paths: https://illuminatedpaths.bandcamp.com/album/travel-in-peace-ep Available in digital and limited edition cassette. Music and Production: Don Tyler / Vocals and Words: Jeremy Gluck Enjoy a previous Plasticon gem here/hear… Made of Light: illuminatedpaths.bandcamp.com/album/made-of-light
Certain machine produced forms are the most perfect forms of our period. – Gustav Metzger
Meme Baby Meme
When it comes to my memes – and at the moment for me just about everything does – I let it lead me. With these sorts of things it’s good to let it tell us. Not so much, “What do I do with the memes?” but “What do the memes do with me?” How does a meme express itself? What’s its identity? Does it feel? what does it do? How aobut its ‘memeness‘?
Therefore: Start with an abstract proposition, anthropomorphise it, expand it.
What does a meme feel? So far, with spiritechnological artefact, we don’t recognise that it is a form of being in itself. Technology is developing with us, not from us. So memes, though appearing to come from something, primarily are something. A subtle but important distinction.
Think of the Burroughs model of language as a virus from outer space. An external agent that embeds itself and mutates the system. Memes work like this. Give a thing a name, you give it a nature. What is the nature of memes?
Metzger refers to “self-regulation”. Isn’t this just living, life and being alive? Everything regulates itself; for example, sunrise and sunset, sleeping and waking, etc. To say the system is self-regulating is to say there is a ‘self’ in the system to regulate. The idea of a self brings regulation. That self will regulate what is introduced. Such as the idea of a ‘meme’; the system then regulates its usage, spontaneously.
This is how and why the spontaneous meme generation works. It happens as it happens. Not because of anything, not from sense, meaning or reason. Imagine memes happening to us, not from us. See the mutations arising, the randomness and implicit intelligence of the images themselves, speaking not from us but to us now?
Seems like the machine is the ghost. We return to dust; the machine returns to numbers. From flesh to spirit, from plastic to prime.
Travel in peace, all of you. Travel in peace, my friends…
TRAVEL IN PEACE EP available on Illuminated Paths: https://illuminatedpaths.bandcamp.com/ Available in #cassette and #digital format. Music, production and mastering: Don Tyler Words and voice: Jeremy Gluck Plasticon: https://www.facebook.com/plasticonmusic Video: RADIO ON (1979) EP Cover Image: Aston Walker Released Worldwhy on 22/12/16.
Jeremy Gluck primarily focuses on capturing a snapshot of human consciousness through the utilisation of digital meme.He seeks to explore the traditional hierarchy of how art is perceived. His most recent work reflects the powerful dichotomy,which exists between the narcissism of the digital age and the need for a stark commentary on the post-millennial landscape.Through the utilisation of a raw typography and a monochromatic palette, Gluck invites the audience to consume less and engage more, therefore negating the idea of art having a literal presence.