Josephine Meckseper

by John Reed

Josephine Meckseper, Untitled (Berlin Demonstration), 2002, color photograph, 30 x 40 inches. These two images constitute a pair, courtesy of the Elizabeth Dee Gallery.

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 gang. She also has 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 US Senate seat did not get her elected, although winning votes was never on the agenda. In 2003, Meckseper, a native of Germany, continues her subversion of political thinking—replacing it with creative thinking—in three solo 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).

Josephine Meckseper, Untitled (RAF), 2002, black-and-white photograph, 16 x 20 inches.

Meckseper’s work, notably her recent series of photographs—some candid, some staged—traces 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 (which had been set aside for the demonstration concurrent with George W. Bush’s May 2002 visit), Meckseper reduces protestor factions to the fashions that unite them—denim, army parkas, 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 to give art the functional role now dominated by dysfunctional political division. Her 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 to us an artistic manifesto ever engaged, ever challenging, and ever expanding.


Josephine Meckseper’s photographs go on view December 11 at the Kunsthalle Nuremberg.

political art
Summer 2003
The cover of BOMB 84