Performance: October 17, 2008
Participant: Jonathan Meese
Duration: 3,5 hours
A Japanese flag in the form of a triptych, placed on an elevated stage, provides the background for Jonathan Meese’s propaganda The Total Dictatorship of Art. As Hitler, Mussolini, Marquis de Sade, Snow White and Scarlett Johansson, Meese creates a boundless and playful scenario filled with images, signs and symbols. As if in a trance, he demonstrates and plays with his props: sadomasochism masks, costumes, dildos, books and children’s furry animals.
Piece by piece Meese dismounts the stage and as the red fabric in the middle of the flag falls, a big photograph of the artist as a teenager is revealed. In the same way as Meese tears down and reconstructs the scenery, the whole performance is an alchemistic process. To him, the image of Hitler is only an image, just as are the images of Scarlett Johansson and himself – images or phenomena to play with, disarm, reconquer and infuse with new meaning.
Paintings by Jonathan Meese (born in 1970 in Tokyo, Japan, lives and works in Berlin, Germany) are saturated with expressionism, and he himself is just as vivid in his grotesque and Bohemian performances where he takes on the role of a noisy, relentlessly chanting preacher or exorcist. He gets his references in classical philosophy as well as horror movies and cartoons.
The basis of his work consists of a fervent sense of history with the emphasis on tragic and notorious persons, balanced by Meese on the tightrope between homage and travesty. He describes his performances as gestures of embarrassment, helplessness, timidity and ignorance.