Gustav Metzger

To Walk Into - Massacre on the Mount, Jerusalem, 8 October 1990


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Not on display
Gustav Metzger 1926–2017
Fabric, digital print on PVC and steel bracket
2380 x 3950 x 30 mm
Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2007


This work consists of a black and white press photograph, taken from the Italian newspaper L’Unità, that depicts a moment from the so-called ‘Massacre on the Mount’ on 8 October 1990, a dispute between Jewish and Muslim groups on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem that ended in tragedy when Israeli border police opened fire, killing twenty-one Palestinians and injuring over a hundred more. The photograph is enlarged so that the figures appear life-size, and is hung behind a linen curtain. While the viewer is encouraged to step behind the curtain, the size and proximity of the image makes it impossible to apprehend as a whole.

To Walk Into forms part of Metzger’s Historic Photographs series, begun in 1990, which engages with major events of twentieth-century history. In each work a photograph documenting the event is hugely enlarged, before being somehow obscured, by a sheet for example, or a screen of wooden boards. Metzger has explained that these works seek to provoke a re-evaluation of well-worn media imagery by physically preventing the viewer from considering the photograph passively.

This series continues Metzger’s life-long engagement with politics, but is unusual in the way it confronts such a broad range of events. Discussing the way the series tackles multiple, different subjects, Metzger explained:

My challenge is to make people see connections, to see the differences, and to interact and hopefully transform their being through confronting these very difficult works ... This is really what my work is about: offering people the chance to change through a work of art.
(Quoted in Obrist 2008, p.31–2.)

Born into a Jewish family in Germany in 1926, the artist lost both parents in the Holocaust, and has addressed this violence against Judaism in many works since the 1980s (see, for example, To Crawl Into – Anschluss, Vienna 1938 1996, Tate T13323). In To Walk Into, however, Metzger openly acknowledges the violence subsequently perpetrated by Israel, forcing the viewer to question whether an end to violence is ever possible.

Further reading
Sabina Breitwieser (ed.), Gustav Metzger: History History, exhibition catalogue, Generali Foundation, Vienna 2005, pp.196–207, 210.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, The Conversation Series: Gustav Metzger, Cologne 2008, pp.31–2.
Julia Peyton-Jones (ed.), Gustav Metzger: Decades 1959–2009, exhibition catalogue, Serpentine Gallery, London 2009, pp.56–73.

Lucy Watling
January 2012

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