The announcement earlier today that radical artist Jonathan Meese will direct Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival in 2016 means that the Nikitin affair takes another turn.
After Nikitin's recent sacking for the crime of having once borne a swastika-like tattoo, it may come as a surprise to learn that Meese, pictured above, is notorious for his use of swastikas and other Nazi imagery in his work, some of which is shown below.
While some will find this deeply offensive for obvious reasons, the artist defends his choice on the grounds of the arbitrariness of symbols: they mean whatever you want them to mean. In a 2005 interview with Slavoj Žižek , Meese said:
"Yes, I use words like ‘erz’ and ‘rune’ (ore and rune) because I behave humbly toward these terms. They should be what they are, not want we want them to be. That’s crucial. It’s not about what I want. It’s about what these terms want. For they want something. Of course a swastika is ideologically loaded, but that’s not in the thing itself. The swastika will tell us itself what it wants. We’ve only lost that. We’ve only forgotten that. That this can also be conceded to these things, to be exactly that, what they want and not what I want—that’s critical."
Meese is a thought-provoking artist. He may be lacking in directorial experience, but the strength of his interest in Parsifal is evidenced by his own (very different) version, which he performed at Berlin's Staatsoper in 2005.
Bayreuth's choice is a brave and intriguing one - but isn't it more than a tad hypocritical? What is the difference between Meese's "The swastika will tell us itself what it wants" and Nikitin's denial that the symbol holds any ideological meaning for him? Do Bayreuth management believe the German but not the Russian? The story rumbles on.....