Few artists have continued to explore the overlapping languages of commerce, visual art and the attendant formats of culture that lay somewhere between the two in the same manner as Josephine Meckseper. Frequently incorporating the languages of commercial display in conjunction with references to film and painting, her works are confounding arrangements of both corporeal bodies and abstracted agents, each contending for the viewer’s attention in strange, often foreign ways. For her current show, on view at Timothy Taylor in New York, the artist brings a set from her own film, PELLEA[S].
For this show, and the attendant film, Meckseper found particular inspiration in German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film sets for “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant,” which was filmed next door to the artist’s childhood home in Germany in the 1970s. She was also inspired by the set designs and spatial dimensions in Alain Resnais’, Last Year at Marienbad, 1961. Meckseper saw her work as a mode of subverting the male gaze, of engaging with space and its ability to reflect and divert vision to twist and recalibrate power dynamics, particularly within the frame of the camera lens or human eye.
The film, PELLEA[S] adapts Maurice Maeterlinck’s otherworldly play Pelléas et Mélisande (1892) for today’s sociopolitical landscape, weaving together fictional scenarios and dramatic footage captured by the artist at the 2017 presidential inauguration and the landmark women’s march that followed. Conflating contemporary political realities with a doomed love triangle, the city of Washington, D.C. and its architecture become a context and site of departure, giving voice to debates around notions of gender found in the original play. Meckseper, accordingly, uses her space and its series of mirrors (a signature format applied in conjunction with her use of the window or vitrine) as a site in which one negotiates with a select number of items and objects, each suspended in their own self-contained networks. For Meckseper, the act of deprogramming and reworking these elements gives the artist the freedom for new relationships and political agencies to develop.
The artist’s work is on view through March 9th.
— D. Creahan
Timothy Taylor Gallery [Exhibition Site]