Pellea[s], a new film by artist Josephine Meckseper, expresses through cinema the dramatic narratives and relationships contained within the universe of Meckseper's glass and mirror vitrines. The film is a modern adaptation of Maurice Maeterlinck's play Pelléas et Mélisande and includes footage of the historical event of the 45th American Presidential Inauguration and concurrent protests filmed by the artist. In Meckseper's adaptation, the narrator refers to Jacques Lacan's psychoanalytical premises of the Symbolic, the Imaginary, and the Real to slowly fragment and deconstruct the mythical world of the original play.
By underscoring the film with Arnold Schoenberg's modernist symphonic interpretation of Pelléas et Mélisande, Meckseper draws a direct correlation to the way early Modernism and the avant-garde developed into a form of political and aesthetic resistance to neoclassicism and capitalism. The 42-minute black-and-white and colour film examines the performance of gender both in cultural production as well as in contemporary political terms: the parts of Pelléas and Mélisande are played by the opposite gender as they were originally written in. Similar to her previous film works, Pellea[s] does not follow a strict narrative thread, but instead uses meta- language to pose questions about utopianism and activism and the artist's position within the two.
The film is set in Washington, D.C., in a fictitious interior which evokes different elements of Meckseper's art works. A scenic wallpaper depicting images of architecture and advertising brings to mind Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, which was filmed next door to the artist growing up in Germany in the 1970s. In other scenes, mirrored set designs create a performative and psychological realm, unlocking an expressive field that allows Meckseper to undermine traditional notions of the gaze and the voyeur. Inspired by the set designs and spatial dimensions in Alain Resnais' 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad, the timeless, illusory, and refractory aspect of the mirrored sets define the mythic and operatic space for the love story that unfolds.
As in Dadaist and Surrealist cinema, the interaction of images, daily objects, people and architecture in Meckseper's new film occur through montage and juxtaposition to saturate the relationship between the object and a perceived subject in control. While the set design, the use of objects as semiotic referents, and the posturing of the actors echo Meckseper's signature glass vitrines, the objects and characters are no longer static, but are now actors inside the labyrinth creating a new mythical world.
Josephine Meckseper's work has been exhibited internationally in solo exhibitions which include MOSTYN, Wales, UK (2018–2019); Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany (2014); The Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY (2013); Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (2009); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008) and numerous international biennials. Her works are in the permanent collections of institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Recent institutional exhibitions included: Frac des Pays de la Loire and Hab Galerie, Nantes (2019). The artist lives and works in New York City.
Press release courtesy Timothy Taylor.