Jonathan Messe

A German artist based in Berlin His work takes the forms of painting performance sculpture and installation, known as a ‘bad boy’ artist for his antics and controversy, its often hard to tell if in his interviews, his eccentricities are an act or even part performance themselves.

The central ideas in his work revolve around art becoming a dictatorship above all others and that  through art comes freedom. The freedom from reality into the anti-reality of art. Other themes include revolution and power construct as well as the function of art in society.

He denotes art is fun, art as play, art as anti-reality. He attempts the breaking down of ideologies and ideological signs. Often using images of politicians musicians and actors playing with the ideas of celebrity and modern mythology while falling back on German historical references in particular reclaiming Nazi symbolism such as the Nazi salute, the swastika, the iron cross. Suggesting that these symbols should not be offensive. He was accused and prosecuted for performing the salute which he does a freely. (The salute is considered illegal in Germany Poland Slovakia and Austria and constitutes a hate speech connected to Nazi ideology) While they are provocative his insistence is that he’s not using them to be offensive  is the relation to Nazi Germany is a mere ideology and as he is against ideology, he’s not using to shock he’s using them as an act of freedom to free them from his ideologies which are human constructs. Looking at them objectively without the historical reference removing their etymology and semiology(semiotics) in an attempt to empty them of meaning. He was later acquitted after the courts ruled that his Hitler salute falls under the category of artistic expression. Once the verdict was read Messe is quoted as saying “Art has triumphed,” “Now I am free.” solidifying that art is either above or outside of the normal rules of society.

His performances like his paintings are explosive violent energised loud and somewhat obnoxious, much like that of a Rockstar destroying hotel room. They play with words colour and line as well as humour provocation controversy. Aesthetically linked to that of primitivism neo-expressionism and outsider art and also its ability to stand alone outside of reality and perhaps outside of the art world itself. In context his work in a way relates to this relates to dada or neo-dada, anti-art-art.

Relating to art history, even the most photo-realistic painting, documentary, film or the new technologies of VR and AR are only representations of the reality that they themselves are contained within, with the advent of abstraction such as cubism or impressionism that became a representation of reality and the artist, further still abstract expressionism became direct representation of the artist’s mood and action. Where here I believe Messe puts his art outside of all this, where it becomes a thing unto itself( although with the attempted iconoclasm here is the reference too reality’s ideologies but perhaps  only to subvert or nullify them) Turning the apparent necessitation to ask why? why that colour? why that paint? why that surface? He states that art needs not explanation, and that the creation of art is a of happenstance its of the moment its art for its own sake, art is everything that the body produces. I guess I have the questions, why must all be accounted for? Why in a world so full of the objective, must art also be constricted by these parameters?  Surely art can be used to free the mind and the soul from the constructs of reality not used as a rope to bind us, art needs not be gravitas holding us earth bound but a pair of antigravity boots or a hover board with which we float above it and with his decree ‘art as play’ I am sure part of Messe would agree.

In some respect his work becomes propaganda for the adolescent and the naive perhaps to poke fun at the ideology of the the art world. But they also become what is known as dark matter, or antimatter to the physical matter that renders our reality. They are ‘art as play’ they are propaganda for ‘art as dictatorship’ outside of the real.

Blair Zaye