Toilet Brushes and Total War
German artist Josephine Meckseper's work upstairs at Blaffer Gallery is billed as engaging "leftist theories and politics in a consumerist reality." In "Josephine Meckseper," curated by Cynthia Woods Mitchell Curatorial Fellow Rachel Hooper, the artist presents a mixture of objects — protest signs, ads, mannequins, plastic-wrapped toilet brushes, a plastic menorah — on the shelves, racks and display cases used in retail. She collages ads onto abstract paintings and attaches bathtub chains to other paintings, hanging them from a clothing rack, ready for sale. Black-and-white stars and stripes are painted on the walls.
Meckseper's also thrown in a grainy black-and-white 16mm film, transferred to video shown on a laptop sitting on the shelf, of an Iraq war protest march that looks Vietnam-vintage. Looking at the mix of items, you can get the gist of what the artist is going for, but I'm sure the picture in Meckseper's head is much clearer than anything the viewer is going to take away from the exhibition.
It's Meckseper's single-channel video projection in the other gallery that really steals the show. She sets the stage for it nicely; to get to it, you walk down a "patriotic" red-carpeted hall with a blue wall. A mirrored panel hangs on the wall. It's silkscreened with a photo of John McCain, an image of a geriatric walker, the infamous Blackwater logo and the text "No Country for Old Men." The piece also reflects and implicates the viewer.
At the end of the hall, you hear the roar of the video. Meckseper has cut together actual clips from car commercials (in black and white) and added a thumping, bass-laden metal soundtrack with a jet-engine whine, Boyd Rice's "Total War."
In Meckseper's scavenged video, jets turn into cars, fighter pilots become SUV operators, a car plays chicken with a jet, a car races a jet, and vehicles careen around an Iraqi-esque desert and through disintegrating cities. Car culture is revealed as something brutal and violent — the cars are engines of war, not modes of transportation. They are embodiments of aggression and dark, violent pleasure.
Here, Meckseper has hammered her point home with a zeal worthy of Van Helsing. Driving away from the gallery and roaring your fossil fuel-sucking vehicle onto the highway, you feel complicit.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events