During the 2023 WGT the author/compiler of this book gave a lecture which was also a book presentation. The lecture was announced being about the NSK, the Neue Slowenische Kunst, an art collective that was co-founded by the band Laibach (the following lecture was strictly about Laibach). That much I knew. Much of what Alexander told was new to me though. I have never really followed Laibach and NSK even less so. NSK had an exhibition in the museum of modern art in my hometown in 2016, which I attended (but which is not mentioned in the book), which I attended, but apparently I did not pick up much of the idea behind it all.
In short. Laibach is the German name of the city of Ljubljana and the band was founded in 1980. The band name proved to be typical for Laiback from the start. Ljubljana is nowadays the capital of Slovenia but at the time this country did not exist as the region was part of Yugoslavia. So is the band name a form of ‘regionalism’? Provokingly the band chose the German version of the name of the city, a version that only the Nazis used during the WWII occupation of the region. The band also used a distinctive style for visuals. picking strong images from many different sources, but those that came from ‘contaminated’ sources caught the attention and it did not take long before authorities sought a way to forbid the Nazi band. The city dug up an old law and used it to forbid Laibach from using the German name of the city as a name.
With two like-minded groups of artists the project got the name “Neue Slowenische Kunst” which -again- ironically referred to a non-existing country. NSK had all kinds of provocative performances bringing them a rapidly raising star in the region and later also elsewhere in Europe.
Then in 1990, following the demise of Yugoslavia, there suddenly was a real state called Slovenia and NSK decided to rebrand themselves into “NSK State” or “NSK State In Time”. This still is a virtual state which in the course of time made their own passports, printed their own money, etc., but all as provocative works of art.
Nym describes a “toolbox” for the way NSK State has operated for several decades. This includes methods found in the global art scene, but in a broader context. So when Duchamps takes a toilet into a museum and calls it art, NSK uses such “ready makes” in the art and music, but taken from any field available, from art to politics and back. These “ready mades” are presented without comment and without context. You can understand that Laibach’s use of WWII (type) elements is frequently mistaken.
Another part of the toolkit is: take something and take it to the extreme. So when Laibach decides to use Das Kapital, the result will be an extremely developped form of Communism with the idea to get people thinking. This NSK members do with any type of politics, art, social current or whatever.
Now the part that I mostly missed before is that NSK has many art performances, exhibitions, etc. by (who are left of) the founders, but also of “citizens”. These events usually have some provocative theme and/or imaginary. The book under review is a massive collection (350 pages) with a wee bit of history, but mostly manifestoes, declarations, speeches, visuals and what not. Often this is quite political, but not in a ‘this is how things should be’, but more as in ‘did you ever notice that?’ approach. The virtual NSK State is meant to hold up a mirror mostly to Western society.
I understand the approach. I now also see how this might just have been the inspiration of provocative music and art expressions such as martial industrial, but many of the texts (the author had quite a few speeches) I only quickly scanned. Still, it is interesting to have more context.
Oh, I must say that the book is bilingual. Pages on the left are in German, pages on the right are in English, so you only have half of the 350 pages to read. Unless you want to read both versions of course. Also, the first 99 copies are hand stamped and numbered, so if you are quick…
2023 Edition Outbird, isbn 3948887489