Art & Photography

NULL OBJECT: Gustav Metzger Thinks About Nothing

We talk to the artist about participating in Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson’s mind blowing WORK Gallery exhibition

At the back of our minds lies what’s least visible of all. Thoughts held close, and emotions closer. Brush strokes, camera flashes, grandiose marble sculptures all attempts to visualise these. At the centre is always an artist practicing their craft: capturing a flicker of anxiety for the viewer or expression of love in a muse. Now the name of the game has changed.

London Fieldworks, artist duo Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson, have created NULL OBJECT: a computer-brain interface, where robust manufacturing technology takes the humble chisels place. The mind is freed of body, and the augmented mind begins to demonstrate what it’s truly capable of. Future perfect is explored but also the imperfect, what could go wrong and what already has.

“In general, people are afraid of the term “destruction”; there’s no doubt that over the decades,
I have suffered grievously as a consequence of me repeatedly going back to the term in public”

Artist Gustav Metzger, whose thoughts are quite literally at the centre of this piece, has for many years explored ideas of nihilism, emptiness and extinction. Auto-Destructive is his key concept. A collaboration and homage to his ideas, NULL OBJECT reads Gustav mind as he attempts to think of nothing, letting a drill carve out an empty void in a piece of Portland Stone and make visible in an act that is, by its very nature, invisible.

Maksymilian Fus Mickiewicz: What thoughts have you been trying to drive away recently? 

Gustav Metzger: I am more concerned with absorbing than driving away. Absorbing, and making pre-digested forms available to people, in the form of artworks, for example. It’s something worth striving for.

Maksymilian: What is your current understanding of the term destruction and has that definition changed over the years?

Gustav: In recent decades, this term has been closely aligned to what is apparently a total contradiction–namely, creation.

Creative destruction has become a commonplace term worldwide: On a personal note, when in 1965 I published the second edition of my lecture at the A.A., I used the wording “destruction-creation” for the imprint. In general, people are afraid of the term “destruction”; there’s no doubt that over the decades, I have suffered grievously as a consequence of me repeatedly going back to the term in public. This fear is very, very understandable. What is more frightening, nothing is more horrible than seeing one’s beloved house and home going up in flames, standing helplessly as flames engulf everything you have loved and cherished, maybe over a lifetime. Going further back in time, early humans stood in front of their homes, perhaps a cave, trying to keep out animals, or humans for that matter. Destruction and transformation are fundamental in the advancement of civilization–a recent studyhas shown that it was the principles involved in cooking that made the most fundamental advances in civilization.
Maksymilian: You have spoken about your belief in cosmology, the idea that there was a beginning and will be an end to space. For you is the Big Bang is the ultimate auto-destructive artwork?

Gustav: I prefer not to indulge in speaking of fundamental activities, or indulging in speculation regarding possible endings. What is happening is of such low magnitude that to bring it down to the work of pathetic human activities strikes me as a serious misjudgement. Here we need to refer to the German composer, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s grandiose response to the calamity of destruction in the work of Islamic fundamentalists when he said to the press that in his view, 9/11 was the greatest work of art ever –or words to that effect.

NULL Object is at WORK Gallery until February 9, 2013, 10A Acton Street, London WC1X 9NG