Meese has a controversial fame with his references to historical fascist regimes mostly including Nazi Germany by drawing symbols, icons or performing Nazi salute in his performances. Claiming art as a dictatorship, he says art should rule the world and dominate everything which means for him that everybody should do what he or she does with total passion.
Based in Berlin and Hamburg, Jonathan Meese is a German painter, sculptor, installation artist and performance artist. I met with his offbeat art after getting Eric Schaefer’s last album “Who is afraid of Richard W.?”. Along with the name of the album, the cover, a piece of art belonging to Meese caught my attention as much as the curiosity I had for the index. Then, a small research took me on the journey through his works. Getting too much chaotic sense as a first impression, I whimsically started to wonder about the idea behind this simplicity-chaos orientation. Not surprisingly, it’s turned out to be something quite interesting, maybe more than his works.
Born in 1970 in Japan and lived there until the age of 3, then Meese moved to Germany with his mother. He attended the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, but left the school before completing his studies and was picked up by Berlin gallery Contemporary Fine Arts. His most notable exhibitions are “Ahoi der Angst” at Berlin Biennale, “Spezialbilder” at Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin, “Grotesk!” at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and “Schnitt bringt Schnitte” at Ausstellungsraum Schnitt in Köln. And recent exhibitions include Thanks, Wally Whyton at Stuart Shave/Modern Art, in London, and a performance at Tate Modern, entitled Noel Coward Is Back — Dr. Humpty Dumpty vs. Fra No-Finger. He has exhibited in countries including England, France, Germany and United States
Why he believes in the reign of art is quite intriguing. Looking for “a new wind”, he dreams for a world where people do not get instrumentalized. He explains this “new wind”, saying art is the totem of all need and passion is the key for it. For him, there is no rule, no talent, no ability and no ideology in art. There is no “your art and my art” thing, because art is neutral. He says art is formed by our instincts. We are doing arts just like a baby learning how to breathe after born. Everything is allowed in art; there is no border or segregation. From this point, stressing about the conflicts through human history, he claims art has an ability to fight against human ego providing neutrality; therefore art is the best ruling power and should be empowered.
Besides the well-known or widely misunderstanding image of him as being a fascist because of his regular usage of Nazi symbols such as swastika, I think there should be sought for more than a political reference but allusion behind a logic who says, “Images cannot be dispelled. If you want to be rid of certain images, you must give them the chance to fight themselves”, talking about Hitler. Pointing out the absurdity of human beings searching of a meaning or especially “pathos” in everything, he says people search meaning behind symbols. The more it’s afraid to be used in visually or rhetorically, the more it becomes a taboo, which endures in ordinary minds, being fed by the fear. He believes his actions are an example for making them neutral, only way to destroy them.
From a macro perspective, I do not have a ‘dirty art is good, dirty art is fun’ reflex, but any enthusiast can easily understand Meese is not trying to come up with dirtiness for fun, provocation or even deconstruction. Rather than, I get the impression of funny allegories the artist fights with them as well, coming up with an unabashedly artistic language which implicitly gives the viewer an idea of superiority of any creative mind. It is clearly to see Meese’s passion through his brush strokes and selection of colors, indeed. Seriously, I personally would even admire him, not because how he draws, but why he draws.
Any matter with passion can turn out to be an art. Art is passion. Passion is freedom. Freedom is superiority. Rhetorically, can you really be a fascist when it comes to art? I’ve never thought about this before. If art needs to rule the world, then why not Heil?
P.S. Who the hell is Richard Wagner anyway?