This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
is especially notable in this respect, though it’s a
tendency eagerly accommodated on all fronts.
Perhaps it’s Meese’s obvious interest in
and debt to Romanticism which inspires in the
authors such utopian visions as to attempt to
Jonathan Meese first came to serious artworld literally transcribe his practice into print, while
prominence following his participation in the 1998 simultaneously offering them an excuse to
Berlin Biennale, and since then his work, individually parade their own magpie-like approach to and
and collaboratively, spanning everything from understanding of the history of these ideas as
painting and photography to music, installation, performatively as possible. Only one such essay
writing and performance, has justifiably come to attempts to engage more closely with the historical
occupy a special place in the minds of many still impetus behind so much of Meese’s work, albeit in
open to the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Mama the form of pseudo-historical curatorial posturing.
Johnny is an impressively illustrated, extremely This, however, is itself further indicative of a
well designed and comprehensive document of general desire to cast Meese as an artist whose
Meese’s work over the last year or so, accompanied work does not just appropriate, deconstruct and
by a series of essays discussing his art from its reanimate history, but as one in whom the long
emergence up to the present. nineteenth-century fundamentally inheres and is
If you believe all the numerous contributors borne up into the twenty-first.
to this weighty, and undoubtedly handsome None of which is Meese’s fault, though it
retrospective of perennially Adidas-clad dark may entirely be his intention. In fact, as someone
knight Meese, a new name needs to be added acutely sensitive to both the pay-offs and the
to the pantheon of the Wonders of the World. pitfalls of playing games with sincerity, it’s a high-
Even as collections of catalogue essays go, risk strategy which might be said to have worked
Mama Johnny is at times a mind-numbingly out beautifully. To see this at work, check out the
hagiographic and portentious affair, achieving freewheeling but insistently revealing interview
such stratospheric heights of tendentiousness as with Aeneas Bastian at the end of the book, a
makes the mind boggle. Meese the latter-day discussion ranging from the Cheops Pyramid,
saint, we are invited to think, might actually be on a the Colossus of Rhodes, the Hanging Gardens
par with Saint-Just, Robespierre, Richard Wagner, of Babylon and Herodotus to contemporary art’s
Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Hitler, H.P. Lovecraft, (in)capacity to deal with the issues such a cultural
and perhaps even Satan himself. This, though, history throws up. This conversation, like the book
would be to say nothing of Beuys, Klaus Kinski, as a whole, embodies that same experimentalist
Christopher Lee, Sam Raimi, Che Guevara, spirit, implacably opposed to, yet nevertheless
Steve McQueen and Claudia Schiffer – all of at the mercy of failure, which animates Meese’s
whose names feature copiously in a succession entire oeuvre. Luke Heighton
of (quite possibly appropriately) hubristic streams
of hyperbole. Benjamin V. Stuckrad-Barre’s essay
‘Irritating Action Art’, as artful an exercise in self-
congratulatory vacuity as one could ever wish for,
Walther König, Cologne
€49.80/$54 (hardcover)
p162-165 Reviews AR Jun07.indd 2 3/5/07 17:39:10
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