In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS)

  • Introduction
  • DIAS and Misinformation
  • DIAS and Related Topics
  • Selected Participants in DIAS

Art History Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS)
Kristine Stiles
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0171


The phrase “destruction in art” did not exist as a category in the arts before the publication of Gustav Metzger’s manifestos on the topic, beginning with “Auto-Destructive Art,” dated 4 November 1959, and published eight days later in the London Daily Express, on 12 November. Thereafter “destruction in art” entered the general lexicon of the fine arts and became an art-historical idiom following the international Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) that Metzger organized in London in 1966 with the assistance of the Irish poet and writer John Sharkey. Together they issued invitations to artists, poets, composers, psychologists, scientists, and intellectuals worldwide, and selected an international group of artists and intellectuals to serve on the “DIAS Honorary Committee.” That committee helped to identify and contact participants and forge guidelines for the symposium. DIAS events, exhibitions, and performances were staged in outdoor sites and theater venues in London throughout September, with the three-day symposium staged in the middle of that month. Symposium participants included artists, poets, composers, a dancer, an architect, a scientist, and two psychoanalysts, all of whom made presentations. Two Austrian participants, Otto Muehl and Günter Brus, presented actions in defiance of the directive not to perform during the symposium. Some fifty individuals from fifteen countries either came to London or sent photographs, sound recordings, poems, manifestos, texts, and ephemera to be displayed and discussed. Among those who sent work was the Argentine artist Kenneth Kemble, who, with a group of seven artists in Buenos Aires, had launched the exhibition Arte Destructivo five years earlier in 1961. Such discoveries were met with an enthusiastic, international response. DIAS became the pivotal event verifying destruction in art as a transnational, transformative phenomenon that confirmed the quality and conceptual complexity of the artistic research and production undertaken by very diverse individual participants. No comprehensive publication exists on DIAS, and while several exhibitions have sought to present both DIAS and destruction in art, none have captured its fundamental interdisciplinary composition, breadth, or depth. This annotated bibliography represents the intellectual bones of destruction in art with DIAS as its cornerstone. I would like to acknowledge Dr. Mitali Routh for assistance in researching this essay.

General Overviews

Scholarship on DIAS is limited. This annotated bibliography aims to provide the basis for much more research and writing on the subject, and provides extensive bibliography on selected DIAS participants central to this expansive event.

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