Neue Slowenische Kunst ends at CHELSEA space
Tags: Alexei Monroe, Andrew Wilson, Bob Smith (Bob and Roberta Smith), Calvert 22, Catherine Wood, Chris Dercon, David Gothard, Dejan Knez, Dragan Zivadinov, Iron Sky, IRWIN, Ivan Novak, Iztok Jarc, Kathy Noble, Laibach, Marcus Campbell Books, Michele Drascek, Milan Fras, Mina Spiler, Miran Mohar, Muhamet Hamiti, Mute Records, Neue Slowenische Kunst 1984-1992, NSK State, Penelope Curtis, Srecko Bajda, Tate Britain, Tate Modern
After five very interesting and eventful weeks Neue Slowenische Kunst 1984-1992 comes to an end at CHELSEA space. Our show was the opening section of a London-wide co-operation between Tate Modern, Calvert22 and CHELSEA space; the events have kept rolling and the people kept coming.
We were delighted that the exhibition was visited by members of IRWIN and NSK State artists and citizens. We were also very happy to see the Slovenian Ambassador, Iztok Jarg, the Kosovan Ambassador, Dr Muhamet Hamiti, the Director of Tate Britain, Penelope Curtis, and the Director of Tate Modern, Chris Dercon. We were greatly honoured that Dragan Zivadinov, the author of the original Neue Slowenische Kunst Manifesto also came to see the exhibition. A trained cosmonaut and hugely accomplished theatre director, Zivadinov is a charismatic character and the recognised founder of the Neue Slowenische Kunst movement – as David Gothard pointed out, he is a paradoxical leader amongst equals.
After our excellent private view, the following week saw the opening of IRWIN:Time For A New State and NSK Folk Art at Calvert 22 followed up by talks and events. In the meantime Marcus Campbell Books opened a commercial show of NSK publications, music, and ephemera entitled NSK Wunderkammer. Then came the one day symposium at Tate Modern followed in the evening with a stunning concert by Laibach in the Turbine Hall attended by an audience of 1000 people.
The symposium covered all aspects of the Neue Slowenische Kunst movement including an interview with Laibach and presentations from IRWIN and Dragan Zivadinov.
The talks finished with a round table discussion followed by a paper by Dr Alexei Monroe – an inspiring call to artists to be more politically engaged that brought the conference into a stark contemporary context.
The highlight of the day’s events was Laibach’s Tate Modern ‘retrospective’ concert Monumental Retro-avant-garde. The concert was a rare and evocative event divided into four distinct sections. The opening section dealt with the period 1980-1983 and included founder members Ivan Novak and Dejan Knez in a rare performance with another original member Srecko Bajda. Industrial and often discordant and with a cast including a bald and bare-chested man in butcher/metal worker apron screaming demonically like a character from a painting by Otto Dix or George Grosz, this was an unsettling performance evoking a period that saw Laibach banned from former Yugoslavia.
The second section saw frontman Milan Fras take the stage, leading us into Laibach’s pop/pomp cover versions era . This section ended with keyboard player and singer Mina Spiler’s spine tingling rendition of the Beatles’ Across The Universe which led neatly into section three, dedicated to Laibach’s soundtrack for the new film Iron Sky, a sci-fi comedy set in 2018 telling the story of German Nazis who fled to the Moon at the end of World War Two and established a space fleet ready to conquer Earth. The seemingly blantant consumerist plug for a pulp (science) fiction movie in the middle of a carefully constructed retrospective performance only increased the ongoing controversy and confusion over Laibach’s strategies and intentions.
The final part of the show dealt with the WAT album and other recent work, a recording of the entire Tate Modern concert will be available on Mute Records.
Formed in the industrial heartland of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in an area previously held in forced occupation by facsists then nazis, and then more recently affected by the conflicts during the break up of Yugoslavia, Laibach cannot be solely viewed through the prism of western pop culture. The event at Tate Modern was a tough and uncompromising spectacle and, during the current shifts of World economic and political power, Laibach remain provocative, critical, controversial, and relevant, using their creativity to raise questions whilst resisting a definitive reading of their own activities.
We had a great final day of Neue Slowenische Kunst at CHELSEA space with a great many visitors including Alexei Monroe. The very last two visitors were our friends, the Tate’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary British art, Andrew Wilson, and artist Bob Smith (Bob and Roberta Smith).
The IRWIN and NSK Folk Art exhibitions continue at Calvert 22 until June 24th, Alexei Monroe will be talking at Marcus Campbell Books on May 15th and at Calvert 22 on June 7th.