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 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 an obscure nineteenth-century Russian philosopher who espoused the redistribution of wealth and studied the essential properties of individual and universal identity. Its pristine, mass-market framework is dotted with disparate objects—a taxidermied raven, a digital print of actress Tippi Hedren of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963), a lacy black stocking—and decked in mirrors, glass, and steel. As visually alluring as a shop window, the work presents an amalgam of Hollywood tropes and considers how signifiers of the glamorous and the Gothic have become divested of their original meaning and are now simply part of mainstream society. Here, American cultural imperialism, heralded by Hollywood, is sardonically sanitized. A critique of the extravagances of commercialism, Afrikan Spir also crucially includes a small mounted mirror—reflecting back the visage of the viewer and embedding the visitor among so many things bought and sold.