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Gustav Metzger


Various locations across Glasgow

28 October – 3 November 2021

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place in Glasgow, The Common Guild will re-present Gustav Metzger’s sculpture, ‘Mobbile’, a modified car that collects and stores its own carbon emissions, originally made in 1970 to demonstrate the destructive and harmful effects of manmade pollutants on the natural world.

Realised in conjunction with the Gustav Metzger Foundation, ‘Mobbile’ will appear around Glasgow, culminating in a discussion event on 3 November in conjunction with the University of Glasgow, looking at Metzger’s work and the relationship between art and climate activism.

​Gustav Metzger was a visionary artist and radical thinker. Born in Nuremberg, Germany on 10 April 1926 to Polish-Jewish parents, Metzger came to the UK in 1939 as a refugee. He dedicated his entire creative practice to social activism and challenging our perception of public art as a vehicle for change.

At the heart of his practice, which spanned over 65 years, are a series of constantly opposing yet interdependent forces such as destruction and creation. Metzger’s involvement in anti-nuclear movements such as the Committee of 100 and his life-long activism to combat environmental destruction was fundamental to his provocative questioning of the role of artist and of conventional forms of artmaking and display. His auto-destructive art, meant as a public art form that would instigate social change, sought to provide a mirror of a social and political system that he felt was indifferently progressing towards total obliteration. He also sought to place the emphasis on action over creation of the art object, inviting viewers to interact with some of his work to heighten their impact.

The artist’s legacy is profoundly rooted in activism in both the political and artistic realms. Metzger envisaged art as a means of communicating the futility and horrors of conflict and war. By 1958, Metzger had become heavily involved in anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist movements and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In 1960, he was a founder member of the Committee of 100 and this led to a short imprisonment in 1961 with Bertrand Russell and other members of the Committee for encouraging mass non-violent civil disobedience.

Image: Gustav Metzger, 'Mobbile' (1970/2021)
Photograph: Alan Dimmick
Courtesy the Gustav Metzger Foundation

Discussion Event

'The Art of Gustav Metzger and Climate Activism'
5 Florence Street, Glasgow, G5 0YX
Wednesday 3 November, 6 – 8pm
Book a free place here