Bomb Magazine: Josephine Meckseper

A version of this profile appeared in Bomb Magazine

The candidate’s qualifications were these: she had two grandfathers in the SS, an uncle who was a radical leftist and a member of the West German communist party, and an aunt who at 16 became involved with the ill-fated Baader Meinhof group. She also had a graduate degree from the California Institute of the Arts and a radical impulse as strong as her disillusionment.

Josephine Meckseper’s 1998 poster campaign for a U.S. Senate seat did not get her elected, although winning votes was never in the cards, or on the agenda.  In 2003, Meckseper, a native of Germany, continues her subversion of political thinking—replacing it with creative thinking—in three one-person shows: in New York, at the Elizabeth Dee Gallery (April/May);  in Frankfurt, at the Kunstverein (May/June);  and in Nuremberg, at the Kunsthalle (December/January). 

Meckseper’s work, notably in her recent series of photographs—some candid, some staged—trace not only the history of contemporary protest, but the canning of counterculture.  In a series of paint-and-glitter canvases based on preparatory police maps of protest areas in Berlin (areas that had been set aside for the anti-Bush demonstration concurrent with his May 2002 visit), Meckseper reduces protestor factions to the fashions that unite them—denim, army parkas, or Palestinian scarves.  Meckseper’s disturbing images target political polemics of the left and the right, in government and in culture.  To Meckseper, the revolution is not to put politics first, or art first, but for art to assume the functional role, where dysfunctional political division now dominates.  A broad range of production—from aestheticized glitter pornography to video documentation to her tabloid art magazine FAT—lays siege to any narrow, controlled vision of art.

In a contemporary drift of presupposition, Meckseper brings openness and direction via an artistic manifesto ever engaged, ever challenging, and ever expanding.