Groundworks symbol

Auto-Creative Art — Creation / Destruction

by Mathieu Copeland



Echoing the “Groundworks” timeline: 1961 

Gustav Metzger


Image: Gustav Metzger’s first lecture demonstration at Temple Gallery, London, June 1960. Photo: probably John Cox for Ida Kar. © National Portrait Gallery, London




The lecture “Auto-Creative Art — Creation / Destruction” by Mathieu Copeland was presented at the International symposium Gustav Metzger: The Conscience of the Art World, organised by West Den Haag, in collaboration with curators Ula Dajerling and Leanne Dmyterko, in 26 January 2018. 


“This day-long symposium brings together writers, curators and artists to explore Gustav Metzger’s ideas around the power of art to cause social change, with an in-depth look at his politically driven artistic practice, spanning over 70 years. Long referred to by art historians and critics as the ‘conscience of the art world,’ Metzger was a leading forerunner of activist art and the environmental movement in art. He strongly rejected the capitalist-driven art world, and often produced works that were ephemeral and could not be bought or sold. Throughout his life, he dedicated much of his time and energy to highlighting the key social concerns of our time, with a particular focus on extinction, and adamantly stressed the importance of taking action now, before there is nothing left to save.” (Organisation statement accessed here April 2021). 


In addition to Mathieu Copeland, the symposium also included the participation of Ivor Davies, Elizabeth Fisher, Andrea Gregson, Stewart Home, Pontus Kyander, Emma Ridgway, Eva Scharrer, Sören Schmeling, Helen Phillips and John Plant. 


Mathieu Copeland is the editor, with Hervé Percebois, of Gustav Metzger: Auto-Creative Art (Les Presses du réel, Dijon, 2013), with texts by Thierry Raspail, Mathieu Copeland and Frank Popper, and, with Clément Dirié, of Gustav Metzger. Writings (1953-2016) (JRP/Editions, Zurich, 2019). 

“maat Explorations” is an ongoing programme that delves into the socio-cultural and environmental transformations stemming from the current bio crisis and ecological destruction. It provides an insight into the hard science of climate intervention and the creative speculations behind innovation-led research to safeguard our planetary co-existence.


Prominent in this strand is the installation Earth Bits – Sensing the Planetary, that opens access to the complex interconnectedness between the environmental and the energetic quests and its reverberation through decades of artistic production, political and cultural movements traced from the 1960s until today. 


On maat ext., a series of #groundworks hashtags introduce the critical explorations that feed into the complex interconnectivity between the environmental and energetic quests, and its reverberation through decades of artistic production, political and cultural movements traced from the 1960s until today.