Tuesday, December 29, 2009

history and philosophy and art and Slovenia

First, I had been reading about the NSK state
NSK State,
which is an art collective that was formed in Ljubljana in the 1980s, in what was then Yugoslavia and now Slovenia.

I was reading this because of the music of Laibach, which is an electronic/industrial band that has a very unique aesthetic.

In a nutshell, it is a movement that takes taking itself seriously very seriously, but which does not really seem to take what it is taking seriously about itself as seriously as what it does seem to be seriously about. They have chronicled their own rise with a movie entitled "Predictions of Fire".

More tangibly, they have taken up the historic thread of aesthetics cast off by totalitarian regimes and infused this into the presentation of their work,
and to me it projects the future as clearly as the early avant garde modernist art of the 1900s. The images they invoke mjust have
immediate visceral connection with people in central and eastern europe, but also globally. They are also wryly commercialistic,their webshop banner's dynamic text proclaims things like "WE ARE THE INCOME OF YESTERDAY" and "WE KILL TO SURVIVE.

On one hand NSK is a humanist movement in its spirit, and they recognize and most importantly are unafraid to recognize the part that the essence of traditional nationalism plays in human culture. Everybody loves their country. On the other hand, they seem to be having a good time assembling their aesthetic from the utility drawer of discarded "state-oriented-art", and Laibach recycles a lot of their own work, so they do not write material at the pace of a flash-in-the-pan pop band, instead refining and re-releasing their works.

A possibly disturbing aspect of NSK, and Laibach, is that they seem anti-American. "The End of History" is a phrase associated with America in Laibach's work. The basis for this is healthy, however. In order to maintain a clear objectivity, all symbols of state supremacy have to be scrutinized for aesthetic durability as well as what they attempt to obscure with their symbolism.

As purveyor of one of the most ascendant set of state symbols, America's oeuvre must be held up to the light, candled in order to ascertain the true shape of the embryo within. Paraphrasing from the film, "the triumph of capitalism over communism does not mean that capitalism will endure endlessly. This is because capitalism's 'active ingredient' is greed, and greed's characteristicis to destroy itself once it is sated".

In addition, a fascist state is a "corporate state", where ruled by a board of directors whose authority is complete. US corporations and the USA are at times indistinguishable, much to the delight of (and profit for) the corporations.

So anyone from a country as small as Slovenia is rightfully skeptical and even a bit afraid of the US.

Slovenia. It seems like an unlikely place to unravel the unraveling that has occurred in the past three decades. But it is actually one of the most logical places to do so. Here is a place, as the film mentions, where " the border between East and West has crossedfive times". From the perspective of this place, Slovenia, the minor fracas that was the disintegration of Yugloslavia to us in America.
But, regarding the Balkans, as it says in the film "when Europe falls out of balance, it is visible here before anywhere else".

The NSK info also provided pointers to Slavoj Žižek who is a philosopher and researcher whose theories springboard from Lacanian psychoanalysis and a bit of "old fashioned Marxism" by his own reckoning. In still photos, he looks happy and scholarly. In video,his audio aside, he is intense and somewhat manic, constantly fidgeting and gesturing. Then, with the audio, he is all of that plus a Slovenian accent with a squishy "ssss". He sometimes seems to be peering into some other-dimensional cabinet or bookcase for erudite concepts, and other times seems to be frantically but eloquently explaining his way out of a misdemeanor.

I doubt that Slavoj Žižek could not have been born and raised in America and achieved the same scholarly worldview. He would have been taunted mercilessly in high school and become a disaffected gambler or something.

In the US, we tend to see continental Europe as France, Germany, Spain and Italy, with some smaller derivatives of themselves in-between. Oh, and maybe Greece.

Then if we are asked to strain ourselves and include a countries from Central and Eastern Europe, we might come up with Poland, Czech... something, Romania? Bulgaria? maybe. Ukraine? possibly, but that is pretty advanced.

Slovenia? Is that a country? It is hiding, not quite Eastern Europe, and not quite Western Europe. Or, both.

At any rate, I guarantee that if you take a look at the NSK video series, and any of the YouTube videos featuring Slavoj Žižek, you will learn a lot in just a couple of hours.


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