Josephine Meckseper, Emirates Palace, 2011; Timothy Taylor Gallery
Consider this: ‘Around 2000, I began to focus on making shelves and vitrines. I felt motivated by the idea of establishing a link to real shop windows smashed by rioters.’ Or this: ‘The mirrored sculptures, vitrines, and slatwalls are not meant as affirmations or glorifications of consumerism. On the contrary, their shiny surfaces are meant as provocations for destruction.’ Or this: ‘Their clean surfaces are a provocation for vandalism and destruction. They represent the moment right before a demonstrator picks up a stone and smashes a window.’
These statements, which Josephine Meckseper made in interviews between 2008 and 2010, must read much differently today after the violence, looting and vandalism of England’s August riots, when the ‘shoplifters of the world’ united under the banner of what we might call ‘liberated consumerism’. The word that will inevitably be bandied about during the run of Meckseper’s show at London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery this month is ‘prescient’. Well-placed artworld types, commentators, loyal ‘theorists’ and devotees will note that Meckseper ‘gets it’, and that she obviously ‘got it’ long before the London, Manchester and Birmingham police, or the shocked populace, or the media cynics, or the welfare state, or the neoliberal world order – which, one might add, both the left and the right have diagnosed as the disaffected rioters’ spectrum disorder: ‘What’s wrong with Johnny?’ ‘Oh, he’s neoliberalistic.’
But here’s a question: if you were to pick up a stone and hurl it through the crystal pane of one of Meckseper’s mirrored vitrines, would you still qualify as a demonstrator? Who and how, exactly, is this work meant to provoke? Does it want from you – the artist, the collector, the casual gallerygoer, the writer/critic/curator, the socialite/dealer, the exhausted art-handler, the art martyr – the same as it wants from the tracksuited hoodies from North London? Is it even possible that you want the same things?
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