Josephine Meckseper

Josephine Meckseper

Scenario for a Past Future (Day Time)

Year 2022
Artist Josephine Meckseper
Edition 3 + 1AP
Medium NFT minted on Ethereum
3D Virtual Model

Josephine Meckseper:

Scenario for a

Past Future, 2022

Essay by Blake Gopnik

One of the strangest things about our visions of the future is that the brighter and purer their coming worlds seem, the more poignant they are. Impossibility, and therefore failure, is hard-wired into every utopia. The virtual pavilion that Josephine Meckseper has conceived for DMINTI, built by architect Hani Rashid on a cold mountaintop in a far-off corner of the metaverse, captures the poignancy inherent in all futurisms. Inspired by Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, as created for the 1929 World’s Fair in the Catalan capital, and also by the crystaline dream-structures of Bruno Taut from a decade earlier, Meckseper’s pristine glass box seems caught in the past even as it looks to the future. Or rather, it is caught in the future as imagined in the past — in all the modern pasts, in fact, that have ever imagined the future. Given the physical limits of the universe we inhabit and the limited scope of our late-ape brain, barely a million years along in its evolution, all the futures we imagine end up surprisingly like versions of our failed presents. And our failed presents are forever recalling past futures: The shardchitecture of London’s South Bank and of New York’s Hudson Yards has its roots in Taut’s crystal structures. In Meckseper’s virtual world, Taut’s crystals soar as high as Alpine peaks and Mies’s modern box perches on them.

Her project’s title, “Scenario for a Past Future,” could hardly be more apt.

“The piece works as a snapshot of where we are right now, and how we project ourselves into utopian worlds” Meckseper told me, after I had removed the Oculus headset that allowed me to take a virtual walk inside her virtual pavilion. With Web3 and its metaverse as our current model for perfect worlds, Meckseper has used her first engagement with the virtual to remind us of its links to earlier futures we have imagined: Her Miesian box comes filled with modernist dreamings from a century ago. As we explore its void, we encounter three virtual versions of Constantin Brancusi’s “Endless Column,” first conceived by him in 1918. And of course, the infinity implied in that title is a modernist pipe dream. In Meckseper’s pavilion, you can come up close and count the distinct endedness of her columns’ repeating modules — four in one sculpture, a pair of modules in her other two “Brancusis” — and then watch as the three virtual sculptures explode into virtual shards. Far from being endless and eternal, Brancusi’s columns, as projected into our virtual future by Meckseper, are contingent in the extreme, barely able to survive the pull of a virtual mountaintop’s virtual gravity.

An abstract painting hanging nearby also rejects all permanence: Even as my virtual avatar was taking it in, its composition revealed itself to be forever changing, as though the teleological perfections offered by abstract art were always too slippery to be grasped. Working in the metaverse lets Meckseper concretize contingency; when we enter her virtual space, its contingencies become ours. As I explored Meckseper’s pavilion, with its dreams of new space and structure, I was reminded of similar dreams from long-gone World’s Fairs. I grew up more-or-less on the grounds of Expo ’67, the World’s Fair in Montreal, and I got to experience the underlying sameness of the utopian visions presented in its national pavilions, even when constructed by sworn enemies: the faultless geodesic dome of the American pavilion was of a piece with the Space Age modularity offered by Cuba. And then I got to watch one structure after another lose its purpose and fall apart and eventually get bulldozed. They presented a mankind-at-its-best view that was evidently doomed to fail, right from the start, as those pavilions got built by a bunch of humans-at-their-average. But that inevitable failure didn’t really detract from the pleasures of the pavilions’ initial promise. Meckseper’s metaversal pavilion perfectly captures that same balance, and tension.

Meckseper’s more interested in exploring the inevitable, inescapable limits of new technology that in any potential it might have. But as her DMINTI project makes clear, those limits come with a poetry all their own, and it wouldn’t exist without that potential.

Blake Gopnik is an author and art critic based in New York, and a regular contributor to The New York Times.

Inside the Vitrine

Josephine Meckseper

Sidewalk Cinema

Year 2022
Artist Josephine Meckseper
Edition 8 + 1AP
Medium Inkjet on Canvas, 24 x 30in
Digital Video Animation, Color, 40 seconds

Josephine Meckseper, Sidewalk Cinema , 2022.

24 x 30 in (60.96 x 76.2 x 0 cm), Inkjet on canvas.

DMINTI is proud to present Josephine Meckseper’s first virtual art project “Scenario for a Past Future” which was exhibited from January 31 - February 22, 2024 at Princeton University's Hurley Gallery. Projected life-size for the first time at Princeton, Meckseper’s virtual artwork, which she created in partnership with architect Hani Rashid, takes visitors inside a modernist glass vitrine inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion and Bruno Taut’s Alpine architecture. The imagery is reminiscent of Meckseper’s well-known vitrine installations with an assemblage of objects inside modernist glass walls, challenging the systems of circulation and display through which cultural imagery acquires meaning, conflating art objects with commodities. In its 20-year evolution, Meckseper’s vitrine concept has taken a leap with this iteration “Conceptually this work is interesting because, for the first time, I’m letting the viewer inside the vitrine,” said Meckseper. “They are now no longer separated by the glass but eye-to-eye with objects and they can literally walk through them because they are outside the laws of physics.”

About the Artist

Josephine Meckseper, born in Lilienthal, Germany, lives and works in New York City. Her large-scale installations and films have been featured in numerous international biennials and museum exhibitions worldwide, including the Frac des Pays de la Loire, Nantes (2019); the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (2009); the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, (2009); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008); and the Kunstmuseum, Stuttgart (2007). She was included in prominent international biennials such as the NGV Triennial, Melbourne, Australia (2017); the Taipei Biennial, Taiwan (2014); and the Whitney Biennial, New York (2006 and 2010).

Josephine Meckseper has been named a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 2022 and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University. Her works are in the permanent collections of major institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. The artist received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1992.

Selected Public and Private Collections

  • Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY, USA
  • FRAC Nord – Pas de Calais, Dunkerque, France
  • Hammer Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany
  • Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA
  • Migros museum für gegenwartskunst, Zürich, Switzerland
  • Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA
  • Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel
  • National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
  • Pérez Art Museum, Miami, FL, USA
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA
  • Viehof Collection, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Germany
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA

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