Josephine Meckseper

Untitled, Germany, 2002

(Berlin demonstration, police brigade) C print 76x101cm

Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London

Josephine Meckseper is a German artist living and working in New York. Her grandfather was an architect who joined the ranks of the S.S. and her aunt a close friend of Ulrik Meinhof, leader of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist movement. Her mother was a candidate for the Green Party.

In contrast to Michelangelo Antonioni, who was enchanted in the early 1970s by the youthful protest culture of the U.S., Meckseper looks on this culture with a disillusioned gaze. Her work seeks to free us of the “truth” by means of neutralising the usual charm of things, be they consumer goods or political protests.

Meckseper worked as a newspaper photographer for German media, and her photographs are characterised by the chilly neutrality of journalistic reportage. The protestors, the police and the passers by seen in her photographs all fulfil their expected function in a pre-scripted and familiar scenario. The violent unease of her work takes the form of protest theatre, whose aesthetic laws are known in advance.

Meckseper emphasizes the radical chic which youth culture adopts by imitating protest movements, and presents the protesters as a tribe given to meeting and celebrating its shared past by means of specific garments and ceremonies. The protesters waving banners in favour of many wonderful causes, leave behind them the same piles of garbage as any school reunion. Meckseper presents the protesters as consumers, victims of capitalism, and the events they create, which are intended to make news, are in her view direct products of show business. In her world politics no longer has any meaning, however extremist it may be, because nothing escapes the iron laws of capitalism.