This, though, could be seen as their achievement, and nothing to shy away from. Why is brutality the opposite of mystification? It suggests that only the absence of understanding and analysis can facilitate the enjoyment of complexity. However, this view confuses complexity with a pleasant sense of impenetrability, with the false evocation of the Sublime through feigned stupidity. Enjoyment, or even just the perception of complexity, depends on an understanding of structures that cannot be grasped in a state of mystical awe.
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After reading it, they may want Laibach to explain the book. Monroe does a good job, anyway. Considering its subject, Interrogation Machine is appropriately murky. The act of reading it at some points nearly mirrors the effect of listening to trance music. I would think Laibach approve. Does this argument hold? The recent events encapsulated by the name "Abu Ghraib" point in a different direction. This is not a conventional artistic biography, nor is it straightforward.
NSK is a very dense and paradoxical subject, and engaging with it at the deepest levels means operating at a certain level of complexity. Producing a holistic view of the subject means not smoothing over or normalizing the tensions it produces.
If the text is not always fully accessible, this is because its subject is not either, and to make it so would be to introduce dangerous simplifications of a type all too prevalent in the media and in politics. Preface To understand the works and their contexts, it is important to perceive the oppressive density, coldness, and strangeness that surround them, and from which they are constructed. Preface In effect, these processes represent a type of mystifying demystification executed via a type of re constructive deconstruction.
At this point we are replenishing each other. In effect. While this exploration owed a debt to the macabre conceptualism of Throbbing Gristle, or J. Laibach presented the abject and obscene but always had higher ambitions, and used rather than celebrated alienation.
Laibach in particular are aware of striking ludicrous poses, and often use apparently trivial musical material, but this does not mean that everything is "really" a joke. Besides the militant strand of the avant-garde, there are also surrealistic and Dadaist tendencies at work, yet again these do not cancel out the very serious ambitions and the points being made, only qualify them and add to the complexity of the whole.
NSK statements are very often quotations, or collages of quotations, from frequently incompatible and rarely acknowledged sources. Some references will be fully understood only by those with specialist knowledge or a local connection; others will be completely missed, particularly those that refer to lesser-known artists and themes.
Posters, typography. Although there is more obvious correspondence between these techniques and contemporary Western culture, the eclectic juxtaposition of imageries and concepts from different historical contexts is equally characteristic of the post socialist context.
Epstein argues that Western authors have often overlooked the inherent postmodernity of Eastern totalitarianism, which in some respects anticipated Western postmodernism. The modernist faith in scientific progress that NSK reprocesses, however, is increasingly severely questioned, and perhaps because of this Laibach never seek to justify themselves except via intimidating theoretical language, and do not even try to pretend that they are concerned with possible unintended effects.
Thus, although Laibach often claimed to anticipate at least some of the effects of their work, the reference to irresponsibility might be taken as a partial admission which some contemporary scientists still cannot make that experimentation with, or the manipulation of, volatile materials can have unpredicted and possibly undesired effects.
In this statement about irresponsibility, Laibach preemptively shift the blame for any such problems to the nature of the materials themselves, for which they are not responsible but without which they cannot work. Even the peaceful as opposed to consciously malicious and controlled release of toxins into an environment can have bizarre and unpleasant side-effects, perhaps even for the scientists themselves, and there is also the constant danger of reprocessing operations going critical, or of undetected leaks.
The more volatile the material, the more difficult and important it is precisely to calibrate a dosage which will be medicinal homeopathic rather than harmful. Most importantly, when a process is repeated in a new environment, the materials may well interact with the new context in a bizarre or dangerous fashion. Besides ambiguity, Laibach texts, images, music, and concerts also allow for simultaneity.
The texts refer simultaneously to several sources and associations, and deliberately leave the resulting paradoxes to be resolved by the "consumer. The symbol of childhood innocence was problematized by a black-cross armband. Adults were forced to watch the action lying prone peering down through a wooden cupola high above the stage. In came the premiere of Ena Proti Ena One versus one , This Shakespeare-themed play by Vladimir Stojsavljevic has the theme of love and the state.
It will be repeated in , and thereafter each decade until As the actors die. Beyond the Slovene and Yugoslav press, however, the names of the individual members of NK are rarely referred to, although their identities are no secret.
The "critical mass" this created was particularly important in achieving recognition beyond Yugoslavia, an objective held by the groups from a very early stage. On paper, it is a highly regulated and formal body. The Constitution of Membership and Basic Duties of NSK Members is deliberately reminiscent of the charters of medieval guilds and fraternities, and also evokes totalitarian depersonalization.
At some formal occasions, members greet each other ritualistically, but this, too, is an aspect of the collective performance. The entire NSK organizational discourse also represents a paradoxical exploration of and commentary upon the possibilities of working as a collective, both under self management and under late capitalism.
France and Britain even postdevolution are more centralized than post Yugoslavia, and it is interesting to speculate how the British authorities might have responded to an equally extreme phenomenon. Challenging state authority is one of the most subversive of acts. The NSK example, however, suggests that when such a challenge is apparently based upon a more stringent ethos than that of the state itself, authority is nonplussed. The structure provided a framework covering all fields of activity necessary to give a sense of completeness and self-sufficiency to the organization and the groups within it.
There is no shortage of information concerning NSK. Since there have been several NSK publications containing increasingly accessible texts, as well as an immense quantity of foreign and domestic press material.
Yet these are only now being synthesized into coherent chronological accounts, and this situation has enabled parallel yet scarcely connected accounts to survive, mutate, and proliferate. NSK concluded that the only way to escape the "problem" of belonging to an obscure culture was deliberately to appropriate the strident and violent means by which external influences were imposed upon the Slovene space. By using the language of their colonial overlords, many formerly subjugated peoples, above all the Irish, have had an influence upon English literature that is out of all proportion to their numbers.
NSK exposes the working of a similar Hegelian master-slave dialectic, acting with the very aggression employed by dominant colonizing cultures. Yet such a reading would also have to integrate the internationalist and cosmopolitan elements of NSK, as well as its use of irony and absurdity, all of which contradict the typical structures of nationalist ideologies. Open discussion of this period was taboo because it would have begged the question of fascist collaboration in wartime Slovenia.
In the early s such symbols seemed distant and quaint, and their unexpected reemergence had a spectral, uncanny quality. The activation of the Germanic trauma in turn activates the undifferentiated, unidentified, passive, nightmare-filled Slavic dream.
While it was never actually prohibited, such a prohibition would have been superfluous until Laibach appeared in full uniform and armbands, with Laibach posters in the background, and recited "Documents of Oppression. Although it later emerged that the interview was a case of mutual exploitation.
Pengov nevertheless played the role of mouthpiece of civic repression, denouncing Laibach as "enemies of the people" and appealing to citizens to stop and destroy the group. In the immediate aftermath, the Ljubljana council decided that the use of the Germanized name was "without legal basis," and banned any future appearances in the city by the group under that name.
Our name may be dirty but we are clean. An increasing number of visitors come to Ljubljana primarily or entirely as a result of the Laibach connection. By exposing this totalitarian aspect, Laibach effect a postmodernizing archaicization of rock. The concerts demask and recapitulate a widespread penchant for or susceptibility to brutality, the persistence of the desire for Fascistic modes of identification and the decadent "state of the art" commodification and personality cults.
This level of simulation, however, is necessary for practical as well as conceptual reasons. Laibach may seem to represent the institutional antithesis of the typical rock group, but since it operates within the alternative rock arena, all the usual promotional paraphernalia are functionally as well as conceptually essential. Since , Laibach audiences have been confronted by a merchandising stall.
Transactions carried out here form an important symbolic aspect of the show. Laibach use audiences to produce their own effects. Audiences consume ideologico-physical artifacts, subsidizing the operation and recapitulating the mechanics of the fan exploitation at the heart of rock. Profits from tour merchandising can far exceed those from record sales, and when these are produced by in-house designers the potential profits are even greater; however, since Laibach insist on expensive lighting and video techniques, merchandising serves only to subsidize tour expenses.
To put it crudely, these are the ideological and the aesthetic. The latter are drawn by the image and the music, or their provocative and brutal qualities. Both sets of fans share the conviction that their interpretation of and connection with the band or its work is both most valid and most intense. The static remorselessness of the music and performers seems to fossilize rock conventions. Vocalist Milan Fras generally remains static and physically impassive.
Normally the vocalist is the most mobile and animated performer, yet Fras makes only relatively slow, exaggeratedly theatrical gestures, such as a paternal sweep of the arm or a clenched fist. These gestures resemble the quasi-dictatorial gestures of Freddie Mercury. Fras rarely reacts either to the violence of the music or to the audience, short-circuiting the feedback of audience-band response. He seems to defy anyone to display more emotion than he does himself, while at the same time he is the focal point of a performance that deliberately whips up the audience.
At his most severe he could be seen as embodying prohibition, or even as an overdramatized manifestation of a collective superego. In instrumental passages he simply stands motionless, looking straight ahead, indifferent even to the other performers, violently challenging all preconceptions of a rock performance, stripped of all expressiveness.
The entire "classic" mode of rock performance is subjected to demonic parody. Rather than a charismatic "rock God" onto whom to project their fantasies, audiences are confronted by a cold Inquisitor figure embodying calm at the center of a storm. The symbolic implications of a Slovene band with a taboo German name presenting images of Nazi atrocities as part of a highly Germanic and imperious performance using many totalitarian elements are vast.
If they would stop to reason for a second, the whole performance would go to pieces and they would be left to panic. On this basis we find no superiority in the cover-versions over sampling techniques. Our work, however, which is original, or rather a copy without the original, is superior to the historical material.
The lyrics have obviously sinister connotations when they are sung in German by a group such as Laibach: "One man, one goal, one solution. Laibach are not ascribing any specific hidden agenda to Queen beyond the conquest of new audiences and territories , but amplifying or "making strange" the structures of unquestioning adulation and obedience common to both totalitarian mass mobilization and capitalist mass consumption. Finally, there is a more sinister allusion to the quasi-Masonic Spanish Catholic sect Opus Dei, which has been associated with extreme right-wing activities.
Each album format CD, tape, vinyl contains a different sequence and alternate mixes of the tracks, heightening the sense of a multilayered, nonlinear "text" in which the playful, mystifying aspects of Laibach predominate over the militant and absolute.
The project totally ignores the laws of politics in positing a state without permanent territory, appropriating totalitarian arrogance and diverting it into cultural form, away from political forces that might wish to abuse it. This process echoes the "earthing" effect Laibach may have had within the Slovene political space, and is also an expression of political realities felt particularly acutely in Slovenia and Yugoslavia.
Responsibility for the use of NSK passports is placed on the bearers; they can be used as actual travel documents or kept as artifacts, but the extent to which they resemble "real" passports serves as an incitement to their use, especially for those who find their given statehoods problematic or inconvenient. The passports, manufactured according to international specifications, are described as documents "of a subversive nature and unique value.
They also represent a materialization of the essence of all the NSK works that reprocess state motifs, and are both aesthetic artifacts and political documents.
Interrogation Machine: Laibach and NSK
A real explosion of artistic and intellectual energy took place in Ljubljana during the s, the impact of which reverberated throughout the global cultural landscape. Alexei Monroe not only describes this explosion but transmits its energy to the reader. NSK is considered by many to be the last true avant-garde of the twentieth century and the most consistently challenging artistic force in Eastern Europe today. Its complex and disturbing work—in fields including experimental music and theater, painting, philosophy, writing, performance, and design—has an international following but a powerful and specific cultural context. Within the NSK organization are a number of divisions, the best-known of which is Laibach, an alternative music group known for its blending of popular culture with subversive politics, high art with underground provocation—reflecting the political and cultural chaos of its time. In Interrogation Machine, Alexei Monroe offers the first critical appraisal of the entire NSK phenomenon, from its elaborate organizational structure and its internal logics to its controversial public actions.
Interrogation Machine: Laibach and Nsk
After reading it, they may want Laibach to explain the book. Monroe does a good job, anyway. Considering its subject, Interrogation Machine is appropriately murky. The act of reading it at some points nearly mirrors the effect of listening to trance music. I would think Laibach approve. Does this argument hold? The recent events encapsulated by the name "Abu Ghraib" point in a different direction.