Thuistezien 306 — 16.01.2022
In this lecture, artist, curator and lecturer Andrea Gregson discusses what it was like to work together with Gustav Metzger for two years, between 2013 and 2015. This talk was presented at the 2018 Symposium ‘Gustav Metzger: The Conscience of the Art World’ at West Den Haag, part of the first solo exhibition of the artist since his death in March 2017 called ‘Ethics Into Aesthetics’. Referred to by that title by art historians and critics, his dedication to highlighting key social concerns of our time and their intertwining with history and politics is inspiring. His questions on ‘taking action’ still drive artists today.
Gustav Metzger was a German artist and political activist and could be seen as one of the most radical artists of the ’60s and ’70s. He strongly rejected the capitalist-driven art world and often produced works that were ephemeral and could not be bought or sold. Throughout the decades he stayed politically engaged, with the demise of the natural world as a pressing issue. He felt that artists are especially threatened because so many rely on nature as a big inspiration. Metzger stated that ‘artists have a special part to play in opposing extinction, if only on a theoretical, intellectual basis’.
Andrea Gregson describes the ‘seismic moment’ when at the end of a guest lecture at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham in 2013, Metzger turned around and made an appeal to the students: What are you going to do about extinction? Using the image of an (extinct) old stamp of an endangered animal, the lion would represent the ‘2014 Facing Extinction’ conference at Farnham, after which Gregson followed to curate two shows on ‘Mass Media: Today and Yesterday’, and co-curating the ‘Day of action Remember Nature’ and its online presence. Grappling with the question ‘How do we move people emotionally?’ and ‘What role can art play to hold destruction in nature?’, Metzger and Gregson agreed on specific decision-making regarding the speakers of the events and curation of the shows. Where it seemed like a huge responsibility to incite action with no promise of success, the emphasis lay on inviting engagement and developing momentum. From interdisciplinary panels to reworking newspapers into collages, students, as well as experts, may develop information and power from below. Lastly, Gregson notes on how her work incorporates this notion of reappropriation, similarly ‘cross-stitch’, to engage viewers to remember nature. ‘Once you shift, you don’t go back to where you were'.
Andrea Gregson (1968) is a London-based artist, curator and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at University for the Creative Arts, Farnham. From 1995 to 1997, she was awarded a Postgraduate Fellowship at the Academy of Fine Art, Warsaw, Poland and an MA in Fine Art from Manchester Metropolitan University (1998). Her research is an ongoing inquiry into obsolescence, materiality, value and site. Andrea co-curated Gustav Metzger’s ‘Facing Extinction: The Conference’ at UCA Farnham, and curated his solo show at James Hockey Gallery and Herbert Read Gallery (2014), which was live-streamed at the ‘Extinction Marathon’, Serpentine Gallery, London. Afterwards, she co-curated Gustav’s collective artwork ‘Remember Nature’ in 2015.
Text: Yael Keijzer