Thuistezien 214 — 24.03.2021

Elizabeth Fisher
Science, Technology & Metzger

For a symposium in 2018 concerning the artist Gustav Metzger, West invited writers, curators, and artists to investigate Metzgers 70 year long artistic practice, a practice that all years have been heavily shaped by his belief in the power of art to cause social change. One of the speakers was Elizabeth Fisher, an independent curator and doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge, U.K. who gave the talk ‘Science, technology & Gustav Metzger’.

A couple of years prior to her talk at West, Fisher had a chance to work with Metzger as a curator for the show ‘Gustav Metzger: Lift off!’ in Cambridge where they, in their own words, creatively revisited some of Metzger’s auto-destructive and auto-creative works. One of these works was ‘Drop on Hot Plate’, originally created in 1968 as part of the lecture series that Metzger was doing for a number of years in Cambridge. The work ‘Drop on Hot Plate’ involves balancing the flow of water coming down the hot copper tube to a hot plate which its evaporation rate on contact with the plate. It produces a droplet in constant motion but with an apparent stasis. The work revolves around balance - or the relationship between opposite elements or forces - which is a theme at the core of Metzgers work.

What shaped these lectures was his interest in demonstrating to his audience the intersection of art, technology, and science. In a filtration lab in Swansea, Metzger had the chance to work on processes and techniques which could transform materials from one state to another. As he put it, their processes of change resulted in performing as temporal kinetic sculptural events. During this period, these demonstration lectures became the primary platform for Metzger to introduce audiences to his auto-destructive and auto-creative ideas. A pivotal issue in these lectures was the art’s role in society, that being a society which was rapidly changing due to major technological advances such as mass production techniques, space exploration and the atomic bomb. Metzger did not reject these technological advances but, as he put it himself, aimed to ‘use science to destroy science’.

During the 20 minutes, Fisher covers Metzgers interdisciplinary collaborations with technological fields such as science, engineering, architecture. She also briefly explains Metzgers editorship in the magazine PAGE, the bulletin of the computer art society as well as his involvement in the British society for social responsibility in science. Revolving primarily around the period of the 1960s and early 1970s, she makes clear how the use of science and technology is deeply rooted in Metzgers own aesthetic theories as well as activistic theories.

Text: Rosa Zangenberg