Josephine Meckseper b. 1964, Lilienthal, West Germany
Steel and glass vitrine, fluorescent lights, and acrylic sheet; taxidermied bird; glass and metal jewelry; digital inkjet print mounted on acrylic; glass, stainless steel and copper scouring pads, and feathers on steel pole; acrylic pedestal; mannequin leg and stocking; acrylic on framed mirror; acrylic on canvas; and mirror on metal stand
79 5/8 x 79 3/4 x 20 inches (202.2 x 202.6 x 50.8 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Gift, Theodor and Isabella Dalenson, 2011
Josephine Meckseper co-opts commercial forms of presentation such as vitrines, window displays, and magazines to demonstrate how consumer culture influences both individual subjectivity and society. Inserting this aesthetic into the context of an exhibition, she challenges the systems of circulation and display through which cultural imagery acquires meaning, conflating art objects with commodities. Afrikan Spir (2011) takes its title from a nineteenth-century Russian philosopher who espoused the redistribution of wealth and studied the essential properties of individual and universal identity. The stainless steel and glass vitrine recalls early Modernism and the avant-garde as forms of political and aesthetic resistance to classism and capitalism. Housing disparate objects—a taxidermied raven, a digital print of actress Tippi Hedren of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), and a mannequin leg—the work embodies Spir’s notion of a compromised observed reality. The tension between reality and illusion is further exemplified by a small round mirror reflecting back the image of the viewer. The relationship of the mirrored vitrine to its objects and their combined relationship to us brings up the question of whether there is a “world as a whole,” as Spir described, or just an infinite chain of correlations between matter and objects.