By LARA PAN, February 2021
In my art quest across Europe I had the chance to be a part of a brilliant and very timely exhibition in the beautiful city of Antwerp. A world famous painter and multi-media artist Jonathan Meese prepared a somewhat cryptic set of artifacts for the Tim Van Laere Gallery. If Meese is best known for his exuberant paintings, his newest fascination for the ritualistic and magical potential of the beautifully constructed ceramic masks only perpetuates his belief in the radical potential of the dictatorship of the art. As we will see in the interview below: because nature (as does reality) loves to hide, we need the intoxicating potential of masks to to reach it – to dive deeper.
LARA PAN: I am intrigued by the connection between the title of the exhibition and the choice you made to work with ceramic material for the masks. Is such a connection deliberate? It seems like they could be made of minerals from the ERZ/Ore Mountains as well.
JONATHAN MEESE: The title of the exhibition „ERZCERAMICS DE LARGE (ABER BITTE MIT SAHNE)“ is an hommage to ceramics and to a famous song by „Udo Jürgens“ (ABER BITTE MIT SAHNE). Ceramics are like Candy, Milkshake, Cream, Popcorn, Strawberries and Fudge on a mountain of Art also living inside the mountains. The minerals and the crystals in mountains, caves and in the water are the glaze of Art and in all these nature masks are essential to survive (Mimicry, Camouflage, Disguise, Beauty, Vulcanoism, Fairies, Moomins and Strength)
LP: There is an aspect of pagan magic rituals in them – some of them are even named and hold contemporary references and associations. Does this magical tradition stem from the ERZ/Ore Mountain
JM: The ERZ/Ore Mountains are the Eldorado, Atlantis, the No-Mans-Land, the Erzstrawberry-Fields-Forever and the Antirealities of Art. The ERZ/Ore Mountains present the adventures of the future. The masks being used to survive are timeless and show the original magic and power of objects, not subjects...The film „The Wickerman“ is an important reference and masterpiece to give us a hint what masks are and what masks can be....The Power of Love is The Power of Masks.
LP: In what context do you see them? And was it a conscious choice to name them?
JM: Without masks we are totally helpless and defenceless in dealing with reality and we would be slaves of our limited ego, we would only be „Mitläufer“. Without masks reality, that means ideology, would suck away all our power and turn us into brainwashed followers of evil and horror. Masks are our protection and our potential to overcome reality ( We need Alice in Wonderland, Fantomas, Aquaman, Clockwork Orange, Alex de Large, Nero, Caligula, Barbarella, Medusa, Agamemnon, Kabuki, Lucretia Borgia, Zorro, Batman, Darth Vader, Echnaton, Nofretete, Kiss, Tarantula, Ahab, Nemo, Dr. Cyclops, Mr. Spock, Goldfinger, Dr.No, Zardoz, Dr. Mabuse, Snoopy, The Moomins, etc.... these are „Erzobjectmasks“) Without masks we would only be Reality-Zombies. The Erzmasks are Total Emotion.
LP: I was particularly captured by the wolf mask entitled “TEUFELSWEHRWOLF IM GESTRÜPPI.” Would you mind saying a bit more about it?
JM: The „TEUFELSWEHRWOLF IM GESTRÜPPI“ is the „Motherdevil“, the core of Total Power! It is my mother Brigitte. This mask is „unvotable“ and shouting, shooting and roaring Love, Energy, Power, Evolution, Play, Game, Freedom and Future. The eyes of this mask are UFO-Eyes and the mouth is a Spiral, the element and sign of infinity. This Total Mask „Mutterz“ is indestructible. The „Mutter-Maskmotherz“ is the ERZ-Survivor.
LP: Are there any legends, myths, or folklore related to the region of the ERZ/Ore Mountains that you could share with us? I don’t believe many people in the United States are familiar with this region of Germany.
JM: The ERZ/Ore Mountains are a Dream, a land of longing (Sehnsuchtsland), the „Dictatorship of Art“, the land that is ruled by Art. The legends connected to these Artproduction Facilities of Ceramics and all Artworks are, for example, King Arthur, The Moomins, The Erzwizard of Oz, Unicorns and all Animalism and Nature. The ERZ/Ore Mountains are the heartland, the land where the heartblood (Herzblut) is needed and rules...
By the way, Erz in german has two totally different meanings: One is the prefix Erz=Arch as in Archangel or Archbishop, the other is the mineral in the mountain and earth: Erz=Ore....i use the words in both senses….
LP: There is one video of the performance in collaboration with your mom Brigitte. Can you tell me more about that video? It’s a famous schlager song that you’re performing together. Can you translate some of the lyrics from German to English?
JM: In the video with my mother Brigitte(Industry of Nature) and me we see two Babysoldiers of Art....we celebrate the „Dictatorship of Art“ by giving Love and Respect to each other and the Future. The song is the „Clockwork-Orange-Theme“ combined with the Lyrics „Aber bitte mit Sahne“, and I am singing the tune of Total Art, that means Future. FLY LIKE ALL EAGLES. This Video screams: ART SHOULD RULE THE WORLD!
LP: I remember some of your 2007 videos works from the exhibition at your Berlin gallery at the time. I was quite taken with them. Are you planning to make any video art in the future?
JM: I am making constantly videos and manifestos and you can find a lot of them on „You-Tube“ and my Website. I am totally into simply making Homevideos (Daheimi and Zu Hause). For me these videos are a total way and possibility to keep distance to the horror of ideologies. With these videos I show my vision of a world without ideologies, without politics, without religion and without Ego.
LP: Zardoz has been showing up in some of your paintings, and now you’re working with masks. I’m curious about your perspective on the Boorman movie.
JM: For me, Zardoz by John Boorman is an absolute Masterpiece of filmmaking. ZARDOZ is the best film ever made, it is a playful parabola and an example of Total Art. ZARDOZ IS A GESAMTKUNSTWERK, a Dream and a Vision like Richard Wagner and Ludwig II. of Bavaria and Johnny (Jonathan) Robin Meese. We need the „Gesamtkunstwerk“ to lead us.
LP: I remember I first saw it when I was a kid, but I think that in a certain way this movie is even more relevant today. Do you remember your first encounter with Zardoz? And what ideas behind it are trespassing into your work?
JM: I watched Zardoz the first time when I was 12 years old and it never escaped from my mind. Zardoz is totally timeless and totally relevant for the future. Zardoz shows us very radically that all political, all religious and all other cynical systems have failed. ZARDOZ IS TOTAL LOVE. ZED is the Artist, the Hero and the „Spielkind“ in Zardoz: Zed is Parsifal, Zed is Meese, Meese is the Moomin of Total Art, we are all masked beings. I wear masks to be in my own world and Art expands itself by leaving all limited Egos behind. Art is the Ceramicland of Total Childhood.....Art is more than a Feeling.
LP: Is it merely a coincidence that you’re choosing to work with masks at this particular moment in our time and history? I know they have been an important part of your inspiration, and it's almost prophetic at this moment in time when everyone is wearing them. Moreover, this is the time of the Venice Carnival, which has been almost entirely forgotten because of the pandemic.
JM: The Dictatorship of Art is the most radical declaration of Love towards Future, Freedom, Respect and Love. We have to play without limits and then the GESAMTKUNSTWERK will emerge. The Ceramics help us to be lovely „Fools on the Hills“, we all have to be Toys of Art, total children of total Art who develop into the Total Freedom of the Leadership of Art. Total Freedom of Art allows no censorship. Censorship is forbidden in Art....Art destroys the reality of ideology.
LP: And how do you see our present masked society evolving into the future? Not like in Zardoz, I hope, even if I do love a lot of the moments in it.
JM: In Zardoz we see a decadent, degenerated, cynical and arrogant society. Zed is the Liberator, he shows the ideological„Realityzombies“ the mirrow of their own horrible existence. Zed is Nature, Nature is the Liberator, The Liberator is Evolution, The Liberator is Art. The Dictatorship of Art is Total Love. We have a Future when we ban and get rid of all ideologies. We need Total Art. We need the „Dictatorship of Art“. Only Art survives and remains. ART IS THE CHIEF. NUR KUNST IST CHEF, ABER BITTE MIT SAHNE. WM
Lara Pan is an independent curator,writer and researcher based in New York. Her research focuses on the intersection between art, science, technology and paranormal phenomena.view all articles from this author