This major survey of Gustav Metzger’s work drew together threads of the artist’s practice from the past six decades (1959 to 2009).
It was the first time such an extensive overview of Metzger’s work had been shown in the UK.
Metzger worked closely with the Serpentine to research both his own archives and those kept by institutions, identifying milestone works from his career and developing new works specifically for this exhibition. The result was a broad cross-section of Metzger’s work, including the auto-destructive and auto-creative works of the 1960s, such as the pioneering use of liquid crystals projections; the Historic Photographs series, which responded to major events and catastrophes of the 20th century; and works exploring ecological issues, globalisation and commercialisation. Film footage of seminal performances and actions was also shown.
A central feature of the exhibition was MASS MEDIA: Yesterday and Today (2009), a participative installation that used a substantial archive of newspapers Metzger had collected since 1995. Members of the public were invited to have a hands-on experience of the newspaper collection by taking part in the creation of this new work.
Several works, which no longer existed due to their ephemeral or auto-destructive nature, were recreated following the artist’s instructions alongside newly commissioned works.
Following the exhibition, the Serpentine Gallery staged a groundbreaking two-day conference on the subject of extinction, the Mass Extinction Conference: A Call to Act (18–19 February 2010).