Gallery Makina. Kapitolinski trg 1. Pula. Croatia.
Opening: Friday, 09.08.2019. 21pm
(Vladimir I. Lenin apparently, Laibach definitely)
Laibach was always known for collective work and in fact we despise the notion of individuality as obsolete, old-fashioned and basically impossible. The first Item of our 1982 manifesto says: “LAIBACH works as a team (the collective spirit), according to the model of industrial production and totalitarianism, which means that the individual does not speak; the organization does. Our work is industrial, our language political.”
But we love collaborations. Over the years we therefore worked with many different artists and outsourced collaborators on many diverse projects, and control was always absolutely there; Laibach’s ‘Informbiro’was instantly on alert, carefully watching over, checking and waging such collaborations and the result of the work done. We trusted no one, not even ourselves. That is why we would look over everything ten times and more, till we were absolutely sure that everyone is in sync and in compliance with the final result - the outcome of such collaboration. And we are still practicing this caution and providence till the very day.
But there is an important difference with Sašo Podgoršek, and also with Komposter team. Sašo started to work with us long time ago – he joined Laibach with his camera on several tours (in USA, Russia, Israel…), we nicknamed him as our own Bertolucci, Fellini and Pennebaker, and whatever the result of our joint enterprise was, it was always good, it was in fact superb. He did several videos for Laibach and filmed lots of documentary material. And he always delivered, no matter what.
He later also introduced us to Komposter, the team of young visual artists, who are since then (2006) providing Laibach with spectacular, beautiful but precise images, projected on our concerts and we cannot imagine doing shows without their exquisite contribution anymore.
Sašo and Komposter are now basically adopted by Laibach (and Laibach is adopted by them) and they are much more than just our usual collaborators; they are significant part of our content, the very substance of our opus and of our entire fortification system. While working with them we can therefore easily practice a sort of collective laibachian lie-back laziness,because in their case trust is in principle still good, but control can just go fuck herself!
Ivo Saliger, Laibach
„One band. One vision. Laibach Landscapes 96/19“
is an exhibition of video works by Sašo Podgoršek and Komposter, artist collective formed by Slovenian younger generation artists Akaša Bojić and Luka Umek, whose artistic collaboration with Laibach extends over many years so that all three of them can be rightfully considered as the band’s associate members.
Long-term creative collaborators responsible for the majority of video content, ranging from music videos and films all the way to the video projections, which always formed an integral part of former Yugoslavia’s most controversial cultural phenomenon’s carefully elaborated performances, will present 17 videos and symbolically mark the beginning of a campaign honouring 40 years of Laibach’s continuous activity, exclusively at the Makina Gallery in Pula on 9th August 2019.
Although the background behind the emergence and practice of Laibach, founded on June 1, 1980 in a small mining town of Trbovlje in Slovenia, and their controversial activity in the early 80s when they were banned from all public work in former Yugoslavia due to their highly provocative nature, was written on extensively and explored theoretically, especially in the context of the articulations of the NSK Neue Slovenische Kunst artistic practices along with their contemporaries the Irwin group and the The Scipion Nasice Sisters Theatre group, interest in the work and general operation of Laibach’s four-member collective’s nucleus is still as strong as ever. Providing an inexhaustible source of inspiration for various new theoretical reflections, analyses and interpretations, not only of the band’s earlier stages, but also of their more recent works on the global scene of newly established national borders, while always toying with the multifaceted discourse of power and the sociopolitical context of space from which the collective formed in the 80s, later went international and became one of the most successful “export products“ of their native country of Slovenia, it can be safely stated that Laibach represents a kind of artistic phenomenon per se.
Building on the thesis that “All art is subject to political manipulation, except for that which speaks the language of this same manipulation” considered crucial in the understanding of the phenomenon of Neue Slovenische Kunst and Laibach, it is necessary to point out their modus operandi which relies on methods inherent in all avant-garde movements, especially after their 30th anniversary and a major retrospective exhibition at the
Art Gallery in Maribor took place and they started being considered as the founders of the so-called Retro-Avant-Garde movement. Namely, according to the curator of the mentioned Maribor exhibition Simone Vidmar, Claudia Richter, and the members of Laibach themselves, the Retro-Avant-Garde “recycles and points to the weariness of all avant-garde utopian iconographies in late capitalism, simulates the models of expression featured in the art of National Socialism and the Socialist realism,
and thus exposes the mechanisms that lie behind the process of the production of meaning.” In this regard, an elaborate manifest activity is especially relevant (which is exactly what Laibach did with the launch of their 10 point Manifesto in 1983 in the journal for cultural and political issues Nova Revija No. 13/14) which prioritizes the spirit of the collective above any individualism, along with unavoidable public provocations and numerous other socio-political interventions. Whatever the audience or the recipients of the messages of the said artistic practice thought at the time as well as today, it is evident that from the very beginnings of the group, whose most striking feature, at least at its most basic perceptual level, was the uneasiness caused by their appearance (singer in a pseudo-Nazi uniform, striking a characteristic dictatorial pose while the rest of the costumed collective is drowned in the anonymity of a darkened and carefully designed stage with directed lights and grandiose video projections), there stood a deliberate idea of staging a total work of art, gesamtkustwerk, in which everything was carefully articulated in advance and in minute detail which made it hard for any observer to remain indifferent. Despite sporadic speculations and predictions that with the final dissolution of Yugoslavia and the regime, which provided an inexhaustible source of inspiration behind most of Laibach’s and NSK’s most subversive acts, the collective itself would lose its force, importance and meaning, this never happened. On the contrary, Laibach never lost its vigour, authenticity and performative power, but further exploded on a much wider, international stage and confirmed its cult status with its famous North Korean tour as, until then, the only Western group whose ironic-provocative artistic play with the symbols of totalitarianism prompted an invitation by the “great leader” of this most isolated state in the world,
Although this exhibition in Pula, like so many of Laibach’s referential song and album titles, is quite clearly and deliberately named as an obvious allusion to the title of the song by the British rock band Queen (One Vision, 1985), it primarily emphasizes the category of oneness/onehood in terms of the unity of the performance/expression of the group of artists as well as their shared vision. Therefore, with the exhibition consisting of 17 monitors that play loops of 40-second or three-minute selected video materials from the 1996-2019 period, 7 of which are the work of Saša Podgoršek and 9 of the Komposter collective with the last, 17th, video-screen realized as a joint compilation, it should be noted that this is the first such authored presentation of these three Slovenian artists responsible for the exceptional visual experiences behind Laibach’s famous performances, whose collaboration with the band according to Ivan Novak, one of the founders of Laibach, rests on complete artistic confidence and creative freedom.
Further breakdown of the exhibition’s title should not overlook that, in the same way that Laibach is forever tied to the principle of radical scrutiny of all representational models in their broadest sense, the somewhat ironically titled format of exhibited works, despite their qualification as landscapes (regardless of them being truly natural or artificial mind-creations of consciousness), appear entirely within the gallery space in an unbroken line of vertical line-up of monitors, without clear markings where the works of each of the authors end or begin.
Moreover, despite the conscious reference to the well-known 1st thesis of the 1983 Laibach’s Manifesto that emphasized the spirit of collectivity, or of acting in such a way that an individual never acts alone but only does so as part of a wider organism, i.e. within an artistic collective, it could be said that this exhibition partly revises this imperative of oneness since, for utilitarian purposes, it works outside of this frame with the intention of revealing, at least for a moment, the personalities behind this fascinating visual oeuvre and their individual authors’ stylistic determinants and qualitative differences.
Even a glance at the exhibited works reveals distinctive and unique artistic voices which primarily emerge from their positions in working in different types of media - film vs. multimedia, as well as from the differences in their generational contexts. In this sense, the works of Sašo Podgoršek are of the predominantly cinéastic provenances, that is, they originate from a world in which the author usually works and creates as a film director -whether it is in using and playing with traditional documentary, feature, or experimental content - while the works of Komposter are formed in the wake of the new expressions borne out of the world of motion design, multimedia, computer animation, 3D, and generally unlimited possibilities offered by digital image manipulation. Although it is clear that both of these artistic approaches can exist quite sovereignly and therefore completely autonomous in their own medium and expression, in the layout of the Makina gallery in Pula, just like in numerous previous Laibach’s performances, they are acting in perfect synergy and once more emphasize the unity and oneness of the shared artistic vision.
Sašo Podgoršek (Brežice, 1964) whose 7 selected works are based on extracts from music videos and tour recordings, made during the many years of his collaboration with Laibach, such as God is God (1996), Tanz mit Laibach (2003), Das Spiel ist aus (2003), Divided States of America (2005), Anglia (2006), Volk Medley (2007) and Lonely Goatherd (2018), in every respect reveal their clear foothold - the medium of film. More than evidently, in the aforementioned 7 video works presented, Podgoršek acts as a mature author who draws his poetic power equally from his knowledge of all the possibilities offered by the film strip, camera angles, as well as editing procedures and post-production capacities of image manipulation. From his usage of raw documentary material, for example the footage of the famous and infamous march of Laibach’s members across the shopping mall dressed in pseudo-Nazi uniforms, interspersed with scenes of Russian suburbia and emblematic text messages - song lyrics spelled out in various different writing systems and languages, with flashes of loud symbols like the Mickey Mouse Hollywood Walk of Fame star as a dedication to the discomfort of the modern consumerist society in Das Spiel ist aus (2004), through cinematic parts of highly aestheticized and sophisticated irony and commentary on the cruelties of colonial politics and the depravity of the Queen of England’s regime in Anglia (2006), all the way to the recent Lonely Goatherd, in which he plays with all the capabilities of post-production process, Podgoršek regularly references cinematic content, even when there is no film narration but mere strips extracted as experimental visual codes at the symbolic level along with unavoidable cinematic quotes and references. This is most easily seen in the work Divided States of America, with content taken from a feature-length documentary of the same name made during the Laibach’s 2005 tour, which features the most prominent symbol of lamentation over the impoverished space of modern American consumerist society and grotesque neo-liberal era - the wind-tossed discarded plastic bag as a clear reference to Sam Mendes’ 2000 Oscar-winning film American Beauty.
9 works from Komposter collective, whose members are artists and motion designers Akaša Bojić (Brežice, 1983) and Luka Umek (Celje, 1977), are based on the premise of endless possibilities offered by modern computer graphics, since they generationally collide with an expansion and development of sophisticated digital technology that gave them unprecedented opportunities in terms of their visual creations. From their recent work Surfing Through the Galaxy (2019) – an extremely humorous animation in which the singer’s Milan Fras’s distinctive animated character rides a phallusiod pink rocket through the galaxy and literally destroys flying hearts that “score points”, made in a retro style and intentionally evoking the 8-bit computer graphics of an early era of video games, through the almost simultaneous Vier Personen (2019) which, in contrast, provides insight into infinite possibilities of digital optical image manipulation, through Krst pri Savici (2016) and Olav Tryggvason (2014), whose unique visual experience is formed by experimental optical deconstruction in which objects at their base symbolic level, such as swords or Viking ships, are embodied in constellations in an almost sci-fi constructed space in terms of patterns-signifiers, it is more than evident that the creative power and artistic reach of Komposter collective is based on enviable Connoisseur-like mastery of the language created by sophisticated modern computer tools and software.