Saturday, September 07, 2013

Pluralni monolit, 2003-2013.

Pluralni Monolit/WAT launch event, Vila Bled, 07.09.2003
The first edition of my book on Laibach and NSK was launched exactly 10 years ago to the day at Vila Bled, Slovenia, in a hall used by Tito for diplomatic receptions.

This is an edited version of my presentation at the launch events in Bled and Ljubljana...

This all began twenty-three years ago in Trbovlje when posters briefly appeared with a black cross and the word “Laibach”. No-one then could have imagined we would be here today, presenting this, but in the end time always catches up with itself. What would the former resident of this place have made of this gathering and his place on the cover of the book? Perhaps the situation seems even stranger because this book is not by a Slovene author. What right does a foreign author have to come here and present your history? The same right that Laibach and NSK had to respond to the cultures and symbols that intruded on their space. These artists took for themselves a right to reply to the elements of their reality they found themselves confronted by – to Western and British pop on the radio, Tito’s face in every building, the ubiquity of ideology. Part of this response meant returning to the sources of these elements. To penetrate the heart of the pop machine Laibach came to London and signed to a British record label. So perhaps it’s only natural for someone from Britain to respond to the incursion of Laibach into the British cultural space. This book is my response to Laibach’s response, a reaction of the same type to a “foreign” element that becomes part of the host reality.

The book isn’t a history but an interrogation of the subject. It’s not fun and it’s not funky, no-one is spared the implications, even if it will take years for these to emerge. The process was never going to be easy and nor is this book, but it’s said that nothing worthwhile ever is. It doesn’t try to repress the noise and confusion that generated NSK’s responses and which structure them.

What the book does not do is deliver what so many people seem to want of NSK. Even after 23 years of activity Laibach particularly still face the demand to reveal where they “really” stand, what it’s “really” all about. What lies behind this effectively totalitarian demand is the wish for a final solution. Once the subject is finally defined it can be neutralised and disposed of. Accepting that “Life is Life” actually means accepting the contradictions and paradoxes that structure us and being suspicious of the desire for a final solution.

The title, “Plural Monolith”, embodies one of the key forces behind NSK, paradox. It draws attention to the fact that what seems monolithic and uniform is extremely diverse and plural, composed of a huge range of dissonant, shifting sources. Even at it’s most monolithic the process remains plural and in motion, a still-active compulsion to explore to the limits. Yet this plurality is what makes it seem to be what people want to believe it is. The book is not so much about what NSK “really” is but about how it comes to seem to be what people want to believe it is.

Illumination dwells at the obscure levels where myths are destroyed and created – if you can catch glimpses of this level of reality you can begin to understand [art, politics, life, the universe and everything], precisely through going into this “darkness”. Try to imagine the weight of leaving unexplored the “mad tale of woe” Laibach have had to tell. If you deny or close off such oppressive material, it only becomes heavier and more oppressive. The way to illumination is through this adversity, exploring the deepest levels. Such knowledge is hard-fought and has a price but it is a way to a kind of illumination. Understanding brings power and following the law of contradiction dark light can illuminate.

Finally, a warning. Do not make the same Fukuyaman mistake that has been made so often. When the old system collapsed it was said that NSK’s work was done and it is also being said that this book, in placing its subject into history, represents an ending. Yet in fact the game is not over, “Das Spiel ist nicht Aus.” Even when there are no more releases and silence seems to fall, the story will be far from over and its posthumous career and influence will continue for some time. For as long as art, war and states exist, so will the harsh need for such painful, fascinating illumination. People encountering the works or this text in the future will continue to regenerate their own meanings and the text is not about drawing a line but about proliferating meaning. People are already coming to me with their stories, interpretations and experiences of NSK, which will appear as the text grows into other language editions and its scope widens.

This is the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. The sword borne by the Marshal in the illustration is passed on to the readers, to use to cut through the darkness of ignorance, fear and mediocrity. The fate of the book now lies with the readers those who will proliferate its meaning, to what ends we can’t predict. And so as someone else once said - Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom!