Jonathan Meese
Jonathan Meese & Michał Jankowski: Freedom to Freedom

Dec 7th, 2023 – Mar 24th, 2024
TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin


Artist Talk
with Daniel Richter, Jonathan Meese & Michał Jankowski

Saturday, Mar 9th at 6 pm

Moderated by Michał Markiewicz, the event is accompanied by a solo guitar improvisation and DJ set by Hubert Kostkiewicz.

The idea of bidding farewell to the world in its current form is at the center of Jonathan Meese and Michał Jankowski's artistic explorations. Events, information overload and, above all, the dark side of reality are transformed into creative energy. The artists critically and humorously examine history (both collective and personal), politics (both in the art world and globally) and the corners of the human psyche (both conscious and unconscious). Meese and Jankowski reject national, religious, gender and even species divisions that mark sharp boundaries of identity.

By having a dialog with each other through images for the first time, they do not place too much emphasis on a single work. What matters to them is the cumulative effect of their mutual relationship. In a graffiti gesture, they leave self-comments on the walls referring perversely to the trash art installation they have created together. In a non-obvious presentation, they scatter meanings, in quasi-ritualistic painterly 'altars'. Through the juxtaposition and intermingling of the works, the intertwining of fantasies, dreams and nightmares wrapping almost every aspect of existence is revealed. In this inverted and distorted reality, somewhere in the background can be heard a hornet's nest, we may discover the identity of the 'Lady-Melting-Pot', or what the boxing ring is a symbol of and, finally, whether we are most human when we play?

The multimedia work of Jonathan Meese captivates with its Dadaist attitude to reality and critical intention towards the social order. His works contain a system of signs, neologisms, symbols, and metaphors referring to all kinds of power-seekers: mythical figures, 'villains', and 'heroes' extracted from the pages of history, pop culture, or fictional protagonists. Jonathan Meese’s activities in the field of art are linked to the artist's flagship idea of diktatur der kunst.

Michal Jankowski's paintings are equally peculiar in character. They are consistent, although the painter works in cycles that evolve conceptually in successive years. They often deal with dead beings, human-animal hybrids, human forms in vague situations, monsters sewed together from organic remains, elements of the world of nature and human interference, cobbled together into a colorful pulp composed of paint. Without illusions, the artist vivisects a violence-based universe.

Meese and Jankowski disrupt the symbolic order, flattening political and cultural pathetic hierarchies to the point of absurdity. In their autonomous aesthetics - they issue red cards to ideologies.

Jonathan Meese (born 1970) is one of the world's best-known contemporary German artists. He graduated from the Hamburg Academy of Fine Arts (Hochschule für Bildende Künste im Hamburg). His ambiguous anarchic statements encompassing performance, installation, video art, sculpture, painting, theater set designs, directing balance between provocation and blasphemy, catharsis and exorcism always in spite of systemically ossified conventions. He has easily developed his own unique idiom in each genre he works with, seeing them as metabolically linked to each other. Meese's work stems from the German traditions of Dada and Fluxus and Neo-Expressionism, drawing inspiration from artists such as Joseph Beuys and Martin Kippenberger. His Trickster practice includes, among other things, an interpretation of Wagnerian opera in which the artist uses sculpturally designed props and scenery, video projections and text fragments. Meese is also a theater director - his latest production is "Die MonoSau" (Volksbühne, Berlin), based on his own libretto. He has also frequently contributed to music collages. In cooperation with DJ Hell, he created the album "Messe x Hell '', on which he performed as a vocalist. In the course of his career, he has collaborated with many important artists such as Daniel Richter, Tal R, Albert Oehlen, Jörg Immendorf.

Jonathan Meese's works can be found, among others, in the collections of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Städel in Frankfurt, the Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach, the Collection of Contemporary Art of the Federal Republic of Germany and in the collections of private collectors such as Harald Falckenberg and Charles Saatchi.

Michał Jankowski (born 1977) – visual artist, one of the most characteristic painters of the middle generation in Poland. Graduate of the Faculty of Art at the University of Zielona Góra (Leszek Knaflewski’s painting studio). His practice reveals a metaphorical game of destruction, which runs its natural course. His realizations are a narrative rebus, an intricate story. His early monochrome works had the character of an underground emblem with an existential dimension. Jankowski reaches out in an original way to the darker sides of European culture, those under the sign of the disturbing and fascinating, full of multithreaded meanings. He refers to and redefines the traditions of the avant-garde and surrealism. It immerses us in the faces of the demons that live (or once lived) in ourselves, in the world today and in human history. He encourages us to rewrite our relationship with things and the practice of processing them. His paintings are created through full use of the painterly medium: precise in every detail, thoughtful with every brushstroke. Although Jankowski uses figurative forms, he always leaves an element of mysterious understatement, in which irony and pessimism intermingle. Noteworthy, his experience includes a one-off participation as the vocalist of a fictional black metal band from the nineteen-nineties, Black Square (2011), heard in a video of the band created as an artistic project by Rafał Wilk and Sławomir "Zbiok" Czajkowski.

Michał Jankowski's works are held, among others, in the collections of the National Museum in Gdańsk/Department of Modern Art, SØR Rusche Sammlung, Muzeum Ziemi Lubuskiej, and by private collectors.

The show at TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art in Szczecin is the first presentation of Jonathan Meese's multimedia works in Poland.

Curators: Dagmar Schmengler & Michał Markiewicz Coordinator: Anna Sienkiewicz-Rogaś

The exhibition has been supported by The Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation (Stiftung für Deutsche-Polnische Zusammenarbeit) Warsaw, and Berliner Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa im Rahmen der Oder-Partnerschaft.

The show is a collaboration with Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.

The exhibition is held as part of the project „The States of Twilight/Stany Zmierzchu”, co-financed by the City of Szczecin.

About Jonathan Meese

In his paintings, sculptures, and performances Jonathan Meese explores such themes as revolution, the failures of ideology, and the role and power of art.

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