A German court ruled yesterday that Berlin and Hamburg-based conceptual and performance artist Jonathan Meese had not violated the country’s notoriously strict anti-hate laws in his performances of the Nazi salute. The artist’s use of the salute, his lawyers argued, represented a form of protected expression and did not meet the standard for prohibited expression set by the German anti-hate-speech Volksverhetzung statutes, which are among some of the most restrictive in the West.
He was specifically accused of performing the salute twice at an event last June called “Megalomania in the Art World” held at Kassel University, though he has also posted many images — apparently some sort of cycle, even — of him performing the salute on his website. In the above photo, which is but one of many depicting Meese performing the salute in various poses and settings, was taken at Nationaltheater Mannheim and is overlaid with text in a pseudo-gothic font declaring: “Die Kunst ist der rechtsfreiste Raum!” This translates, roughly, to “art is an extra-legal space.” The court in Kassel agreed.
After the verdict was announced, Meese was quoted by the BBC as saying “Art has triumphed … now I am free.” Quoth the man who claimed to have used the Nazi salute to critique the obscene theatrics of power in the art world, ”There won’t be any [political] parties anymore. There will be the rule of art then, the takeover of, the dictatorship of art, that’s great.”
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