New film „PELLEA[S]“ by Josephine Meckseper showing at Whitney Museum of American Art

29.04.2018 - 29.04.2018

Film Screening: Sunday, April 29th, 2018, 6 - 8 pm

Whitney Museum of American Art, 3rd Floor, 99 Gansevoort Street, NY - 10014 New York

The Whitney Museum of American Art will present the US debut of Josephine Meckseper’s new film „PELLEA[S]“, as part of the expanded programming for the exhibition „An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney's Collection 1940-2017“. Set in America’s current political landscape, the film’s dialogue is adopted from Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1892 play „Pelléas et Mélisande“. Accompanied by Arnold Schoenberg’s modernist score, „PELLEA[S]“ includes footage from the 2017 presidential inauguration and ensuing Women’s March in DC, conflating contemporary political realities with a timeless love story in which the
gender roles are reversed.

„PELLEA[S]“ (2017-2018, Ed. 5 + 2 AP, 40 min.), 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, and recalls one of her earliest video works from 1992 on the Rodney King riots. The film is a modern adaptation of Maurice Maeterlinck’s play „Pelléas et Mélisande“ and includes footage of the historical event of the 45th Presidential Inauguration and concurrent protests filmed by the artist. Conflating contemporary political realities with a timeless love story, the city of Washington D.C. and its architecture become a context and site of departure through which the territory and narratives of a love triangle are explored.
By underscoring the film with Arnold Schoenberg’s modernist version 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 neo-classism and capitalism. The 30-minute black-and-white and color film examines the performance of gender both in cultural production as well as in contemporary political terms; in Meckseper’s film 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 a fictitious interior evoking different elements of Meckseper’s art works. A scenic wallpaper depicting images of architecture and advertising bring to mind Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film „The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant“, which was filmed next door to Josephine 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 play with the notion of the gaze and the voyeur, of the object and subject in power relations and desire. With its timeless, illusory, and refractory aspect, the mirrored sets define the mythic and operatic space for the love story that unfolds.
Much 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. The set design, the use of objects as semiotic referents, and the posturing of the actors echo Meckseper’s signature glass vitrines; however, objects and characters are no longer static, but are now actors inside the labyrinth creating a new mythical world.

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