Letters: Gustav Metzger obituary

Russell Clarke and Dennis Gould
Gustav Metzger about to launch into a performance in London in 1961. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

Russell Clarke writes: In December 1962 Gustav Metzger gave a lecture at Ealing Technical College & School of Art, now part of the University of West London, entitled Auto Destructive Art, Auto Creative Art: The Struggle for the Machine Arts of the Future. It clearly inspired all who heard it, including Pete Townshend, then a graphic arts student at the college.

Shortly afterwards in a nearby pub, he watched as the double bass player Malcolm Cecil sawed his instrument in half while still attempting to play it, as his piano player, Andy “Thunderclap” Newman, played bizarre arrangements of jazz classics. (In 1969 Townshend produced Newman’s No 1 hit Something in the Air.) It surely cannot be a coincidence that once Townshend got the Who up and running, he specialised in his own form of auto-destructive art – smashing his (usually expensive) guitar to pieces at the end of the show.

Dennis Gould writes: Gustav Metzger was as dedicated to peace as he was to art. He was the member of Bertrand Russell’s non-violent civil disobedience movement, the Committee of 100, who came up with its name, echoing that of the council of 100 of the Guelph political movement in Renaissance Italy. Russell was president of the organisation, founded in 1960, and its ranks included authors, scientists and a number of stage figures – among them Vanessa Redgrave, John Arden, John Osborne and Arnold Wesker.

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