In the spring of 1972, Gustav Metzger presented a selection of his proposals for large-scale public artworks as a series of photomontages, created by the German artist Birgit Burckhardt, for the exhibition 3 Life Situations at Gallery House in London. While the majority of the projects remained unrealised, the title of one of the montages suggested that this particular project had been successful. For this work, Metzger had simply designated a Ministry of Defence building in central London as a monument to ‘Bloody Sunday’, the name given to the killing of thirteen civil-rights protestors in Derry, Northern Ireland, perpetrated by British soldiers on 30 January 1972. As a deliberate act of provocation towards the British government, Metzger categorised his project as ‘realised’. In an interview conducted in 2006 Metzger remarked:
The realisation is the turning round of its function ... this was a kind of war cabinet, a top-secret British institution, and I turned it around into something that would be completely unacceptable to the establishment.
(Quoted in Obrist 2008, p.60.)
Metzger had been devising projects for politically-motivated public artworks since the 1960s. Beginning with his concept of ‘auto-destructive art’ to publicise the cause of anti-capitalism and nuclear disarmament (see, for example, Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art 1960, recreated 2004, Tate T12156), Metzger later broadened his political interests, making works that addressed the Second World War, the troubles in Northern Ireland, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, terrorist bombings and global warming. A lack of funding, as well as a lack of official enthusiasm for his work, meant that many of his projects remain unrealised (see Projects Unrealised I 1971, recreated 1998).
This black and white photograph was created as a re-articulation of Metzger’s 1972 project for the exhibition Gustav Metzger at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford in 1998.
Kerry Brougher and Astrid Bowron (eds.), Gustav Metzger, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art Oxford 1998.
Sabina Breitwieser (ed.), Gustav Metzger: History History, exhibition catalogue, Generali Foundation, Vienna 2005, pp.166, 168–9, 212.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, The Conversation Series: Gustav Metzger, Cologne 2008, pp.58–62.