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Forty-eight years ago today, Gustav Metzger took a bottle of hydrochloric acid to the South Bank and set about destroying suspended sheets of nylon in an act of what he called Auto-Destructive painting. For Metzger, whose personal world view was formed in the shadow of World War II, this was an act of protest against war, capitalism and the commodification of the art world. Half a century on he is still making corrosive art. The Manchester International Festival opened yesterday, with Gustav Metzger's Flailing Trees, 21 literally up-rooted willow trees , as one of its centrepieces. "This project," he says, "is about brutality, the brutality with which we human beings mistreat nature."

Forty-eight years ago today, Gustav Metzger took a bottle of hydrochloric acid to the South Bank and set about destroying suspended sheets of nylon in an act of what he called Auto-Destructive painting. For Metzger, whose personal world view was formed in the shadow of World War II, this was an act of protest against war, capitalism and the commodification of the art world. Half a century on he is still making corrosive art. The Manchester International Festival opened yesterday, with Gustav Metzger's Flailing Trees, 21 literally up-rooted willow trees , as one of its centrepieces. "This project," he says, "is about brutality, the brutality with which we human beings mistreat nature."

On the RSA Arts & Ecology site curator Emma Ridgway interviews Metzger about his long career and, in particular, the various "appeals" he has made to artists to become more politically engaged.

Gustav Metzger: In the broadest sense it is a question of artists being part of a much wider community — a world community — and facing up to the world-wide conditions that may make future life impossible. To oppose those world developments that are extremely destructive. Taking moral standpoints and from there moving into political activities, however modest, to affect the world.

Emma Ridgway interviews Gustav Metzger.

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