"Auto-destructive art re-enacts the obsession with destruction, the pummelling to which individuals and masses are subjected...Auto-destructive art mirrors the compulsive perfectionism of arms manufacture - polishing to destruction point."
In 1961 on the South Bank in London Gustav Metzger -wearing a gas mask and protective clothing- painted hydrochloric acid stroke by stroke onto nylon canvasses causing their rapid but beautifully aesthetic disintegration. The action was conceived of as a demonstration of an artwork that is simultaneously created and destroyed. This he referred to as Auto-Destructive Art, a concept that has been the cornerstone of his practice for decades. Metzger's is work that consciously resists commodification by the art market, being public, performative, temporary and critical. "Self-destruction was built into the art as the mirror of a system careering towards annihilation [...] and as a desperate last-minute subversive political weapon...an attack on the capitalist system...(an attack also on art dealers and collectors who manipulate modern art for profit.)" On October 14th he recreated the action, 45 years after the original had taken place, recapitulating his demonstration against the continuance of war, capitalism and the commodification of art.