Gustav Metzger Daily Express, 2019
15 newspapers headlines from October 23 to November 8, 1962
30 pages, unbound, 66.4 x 47.5 cm
Printed by Papernews
Edition of 50 numbered copies
Produced and published by mfc-michèle didier in 2019
NB: All rights reserved. No part of this edition may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission of the artist and the publisher.
In 1962 in London, Daniel Spoerri and Robert Filliou organize The Festival of Misfits, an exhibition about nine Fluxus-related artists. Gustav Metzger's proposition is to exhibit the edition of The Daily Express every day: this proposition is rejected by the organizers. Therefore, Daily Express is the unveiling of a work conceived by the artist but never achieved.
Between October 23 and November 8, 1962, at Gallery One, not far from Grosvenor Square in London's Mayfair district, the collective exhibition The Festival of Misfits was held in accordance with the precursory idea of May 1968 that an artist is a misfit, an unbalanced person. The artist exercises his/her morals, values and codes, outside or even against society.
Created according to the labyrinth model, The Festival of Misfits brought together nine artists related to Fluxus, (a movement founded in Germany by George Maciunas, an ephemeral soldier in the American army): Robert Filliou, Addi Kocpke, Gustav Metzger, Robin Page, Benjamin Patterson, Daniel Spoerri, Per Olof Ultvedt, Ben Vautier (who slept in the window) and the American poet Emmett Williams. On the invitation card, each artist is given a nickname, according to the usage of the time. Metzger was designated escaped Jew, but he won the title of misfit among the misfits at the Festival of Misfits, according to Robin Page. This was both honorary and distant.
This "young" artist, nearly 40 years old, was then a pacifist involved in the Committee of 100 who fought violence and nuclear proliferation, in which he met the British mathematician and philosopher, Bertrand Russell. In September 1961, Gustav Metzger of Camberwell Grove, as The Guardian wrote, was arrested during a demonstration of the Committee of 100 in London and then brought to the famous Bow Street Magistrates' Court. The fearsome and uncompromising judge Bertram Reece sentenced him to one month in prison for disturbing public order. Nine other anonymous activists were judged and then imprisoned. Metzger had had so far only one exhibition, Cardboards, that has gone unnoticed or been mocked. Reece reproved Metzger who had all the characteristics of a "bohemian", as it was called then: he would show more gratitude, the judge told him, towards a country that had generously welcomed him in 1939, by respecting its laws (Metzger was a child of Kinderstransport, who arrived in London with his brother in the last convoy from Germany on the eve of the United Kingdom's entry into the war).
Calling for "mass resistance", as claimed by the Committee of 100 and demonstrating against NATO or American bases on British soil, was therefore contrary to Kingdom law. In 1961, however, the anguish of the nuclear apocalypse was at its height. Bertrand Russell, an 89-year-old pacifist from the United Kingdom, was himself convicted by Reece and imprisoned. The scandal in public opinion was immediate.
This is the political and historical background of The Festival of Misfits.
What was Metzger's proposal to Spoerri and Filliou? The protocol was extremely simple as it often is with this artist: he suggested exposing the daily edition of the tabloid The Daily Express. Every noon, Metzger had planned to come to the gallery and display on the wall the edition of the newspaper transformed into a readymade.
The reason(s) why the project was rejected is/are unclear. A portrait of the artist, photographed in front of the gallery, was displayed instead of the work.