Monday, 28 July 2014


Gustav Metzger (1965, remade 2005) Liquid Crystal Environment [M5 control units, liquid crystals and 35mm slides, five projectors and polarizing film] Image (C) Kettles Yard

Gustav Metzger: Lift Off!  Is both a homecoming and retrospective exhibition for the artist which is currently being held at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge. Across the exhibition space Metzger’s creative activism and symbiosis with science is captured in a space housing film, archive articles, drawing and sculpture – all focusing on Metzger’s Auto-creative work.

Percolated across the PR is an image (see above) of the splendid Liquid Crystal Environment. Yes, those are bean bags in the image, and yes that’s a bit of cheeky carpet. Carpet! Carpet? I hear you cry, it’s about time galleries understood that from time to time we are all susceptible to gallery and museum fatigue. (Tate Modern take note) Reflected from the white walls the heat sensitive crystals placed between glass slides inserted into the five projectors, the crystals expand and contract as the slides pulsate past the tick-tock clock changeover of slides allows areas to fall into momentary darkness. All we see is the projection of the crystals, just like our thoughts – we cannot touch the crystals, yet we witness them in a continual state of flux.

Feeling at ease the carpet configures our psychological associations with being at home, a retreat, somewhere for conscious thought and time to slide over and allow the crystals to be a breathing extension of our own neural transmission as our neurons are activated not just from the light of other cells but by the light Metzger mediates through the projectors.

Kettle’s Yard seems to be another gallery to have welcomed vinyl text lettering with open arms as the vinyl letters have leaked beyond the contextual blurb and into quotes and manifestos from the artist himself, (context junkies rejoice). Situated next to the piece Dancing Tubes back in a white void, wooden floored now traditional contemporary art space is Metzger’s fifth manifesto, On Random Activity in Material/Transforming Works of Art. But of course, part way through your pleasant reading of this beautiful wall text, you may be interrupted by the hum of the air compressor resuscitating the previously silent still plastic Dancing Tubes back to life.

Attempting to make “art untouched by artists”, Metzger explores the materiality of substances usually found in a science laboratory. Artists and scientists are known for undertaking experiments, however Metzger documents an objects presence in space in Light Drawings (2014) where fibre optic cables are suspended over sheets of photo-sensitive paper and are floated across the paper by fans pushing currents of air causing the cables and composition of the drawings to move.  

After an enjoyable morning in the gallery I was swiftly off to play musical chairs in Kettle’s Yard house – such a contrast it was almost complimentary. The exhibition runs until the 31st August, 2014 – is it time artists and scientists collaborated more often? I think I need to start being nice to my Bioscience studying sister.

See below for some images from the exhibition and a video of Gustav Metzger in conversation with the curator of the exhibition, Elizabeth Fisher.

Background, Gustav Metzger (1968, remade 2014) Mica Cube [Acrylic, Mica and air]

Gustav Metzger (2014) Drawing Tubes [Compressed air and plastic tubing]

Gustav Metzger (2014) Light Drawings [Photographic prints]

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