Anglia Ruskin University
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Laibach and the NSK: An East-West Nexus in Post-Totalitarian Eastern Europe

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:08 authored by Simon P. Bell
This thesis is a study of the Slovenian multi-disciplinary collective the NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst), with particular focus on the music group Laibach. This thesis interrogates how Laibach and the NSK operate as a nexus between Eastern Europe and the West through the ritualised staging of ideology as a mechanism of power. This research addresses the wider issue of Eastern European aesthetic discourse in the context of hegemonic Western aesthetic discourse. Research involved an analysis of Laibach and the NSK’s prime aesthetic strategy, Retrogardism, in the context of Western aesthetic discourse. This required an analysis of diverse fields such as the historic avant-garde, European history, critical theory, cultural activism, and Performance Art. Comparisons with activist, popular music and performance groups were drawn, and a survey of Laibach’s audience undertaken as part of an analysis of Laibach’s interpellative qualities in the West. This research was conducted within a Performance Art framework, and reference made to current Performance Art praxis. Research revealed the dominance of Western aesthetic discourse and how this has resulted in an increased autonomy of Eastern European aesthetic discourse in a post-Socialist context. Laibach and the NSK are intrinsic to this discursive field, and effective engagement with Laibach is only possible within the discourse of this Eastern European autonomy. A study of Western reportage of Laibach was conducted, which demonstrated a failure of the West to engage with the complexity in the Laibach and NSK performative spectacle. It was found that this complexity is Laibach’s dominant interpellative quality. Laibach and the NSK articulate the dialectic between Eastern Europe and the West as both a point of communication and text for interpretation. Laibach and the NSK establish this point of nexus as one achieved by a process of non-alignment with any geo-political, temporal, aesthetic or ideological determinants. In this way they function as a site of resistance to late-capitalism, which has assimilated conventional forms of counter-cultural challenge. In this way Laibach and the NSK’s Performance Art contrasts with Western Performance Art discourse.



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