Monday, June 13, 2005
We are poised on a trajectory that takes us from the
bowels of the earth to the infinity of near infinity of
Can it be said that the sun is destructive? So much has
been said about the generative nature of the sun.
Ancient Egypt is a hymn to the sun. Thousands of years
later the same sun is seen as a threat -no- *the*
threat to humanity. We believe that the sun, that self
same sun, will burn and devour the earth. There are
quite a large number of cultures which have also seen
the sun as a predator and destroyer.
It is evident that the sun burns crops, barches the
land and destroys people and animals who are without
water and shelter.
And yet without it there would not be life as we know
it on this eath. It is this bifocal balancing of
opposites, the dance on the edge of abyss, which runs
through human life and suffuses so much of art - all
Art arises from the feeling and the knowledge that the
line between a generative and a destructive reality is
paper-thin. I find that in the music for piano by
Chopin it is this line which maintains and sustains. (...)
The question that I am facing in recent years is this:
to what extent are human beeings part of this ceaseless
chain of destruction? Do we absorb it; does it impinge
on us; is the chemical, biological entity that is the
human being penetrated by that which is so
overwhelmingly the stuff of life?(...)
If destruction and creation is so profoundly embedded
in the human beeing, in the atoms and cells - and the
origins go back to the first beginnings of biological
life - if there is a total mix between that which is on
earth and in the galaxies, how should we respond?
Destruction is *not nice*. Religion after religion has
tried to turn away from it, but always only with
Everything that is on the surface of the earth will go.
Mountains will melt in the heat. Vast periods of time
before this, even the best preserved works of art will
have gone, and human beeings also. Nothing is forever.
When i wrote in the first Auto-Destructive Art
manifesto that a work of auto-destructive art can last
a few seconds and no more then twenty years, I had a
certain doubt. Really, only a few seconds? I was right
to query but erred in the direction. Today, in the work
with electronics, a second is a vast expanse of time.
Time is considered in terms of a millionth part of a
And beyond this, there are attitudes towards
environment, the critique of capitalist consumer
society, the critique of science and technology, and
the emphasis on individual responsiblity.
There is a deep-seated fear of destruction in many
people. What is the origin of this fear? In part is a
fear of destructivity lodged in ourselves. Our urge to
be aggressive and act with violence gives rise to a
reaction that seeks to ban and inhibit agression and
violence in general.
(...)We are part of nature: We *are* nature. But is nature
red in tooth and claw?
Certain micro-organisms can live within nuclear
reactors. It has been said that should there be a
nuclear destruction of the world microbes will manage
to survive better than any other species. So what live
can survive amongst the galaxies? Are the Galaxies
nature? Is what is going on there *natural*? Well, not
by our standards.
But presumably beeing a galaxy is as natural as apple
pie for the galaxy. For a galaxy, life on earth is
meaningless soft and soppy. Who wants all that soggy
stuff, trees swaying in the wind? How can a Niagara
Falls or an atom bomb compare with the immense expanse,
the power billion times greater that the sun, the sheer
empowerment of it all? What a life!
The fact that we could not live there and that we would
find those conditions unnatural must not blind us to
the realisation that galaxies *are* nature.
From the burning core of our earth to those expanses
where we could never go, and if we did, never survive.
Do we share the burning to the point where everything
disintegrates? What is the fever pitch of a person in
love; or the maniacal excess of a creative act; or the
blind onslaught of a killer? What has it to do with the
torrents within a galaxy?
It is the extreme and the excess. It is the burning to
the point threatened by dissolution. Dissolution does
not take place - any more than the galaxy dissolves -
despite ist white heat.
That is what unites us with the beyond: the capacity to
reach a core, burning, endangered, exposed. And to go
on. To go through the furnace, remember the Bible
Story, go through the galaxy and emerge intact.
Destruction and destructivity are inextricably entwined
in the nature that we know; fire does not make moral
judgements. Inasfar that we are nature, that nature
suffuses us, we are inescapably entrapped within it.
The murderer hits out like the branch falls of the
We do not need visual reminders to conjure up the
destructivity ongoing in humanity. We need merely to
repeat a mantra of atrocities. The Hordes of Ghengis
Khan, the Thirty Years War, in the manner perhaps of
Alaistair MacLennan's recent installation at the
Arches, Glasgow, speaking of the Troubles in Northern
Ireland. The Sacking of Rome, the Gates of Jericho,
Sabra and Shatilla. Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The
Massacre on the Temple Mount. The First World War. The
Second World War. The Third World War. Zaire Rwanda.
Yugoslavia. My Lai.
Nature and natural - Natural Born Killers.
Gustav Metzger, Earth to Galaxies: On Destruction and Destructivity
[From a lecture given as part of SoFA Events series at
the Glasgow Film Theatre, 8 November 1996, organized by
Ross Birrell and Alice Angus]
destroyed by ---gallizio
in the bursting era