Sunday, May 11, 2008

The phantasmatic underside of the ideological system

Given the tremendous creative output of the anonymous collective throughout the 1980s--concerts, performances, exhibitions, publications, manifestos, records, CDs, films, posters, etc.--it is not surprising that newly emerging theatre artists, designers and choreographers are indebted to NSK's visual-conceptual strategies or, at least, to its reverberating aesthetic of "total art." This aesthetic intermixes and compounds avant-garde styles and art/theatre/ballet/music/film models ranging from the Russian revolution (Meyerhold, Eisenstein, Malevich, Tatlin) to current Western performance types (Robert Wilson, Jan Fabre, Pina Bausch, the Italian transavanguardia) and more aggressive punk or industrial technomusic forms. One of these deliberately provocative mixings and mimicries involved Laibach's and New Collectivism's adaptations of Nazi and fascist iconographies, which were exposed in their shocking correspondence to the official aesthetics of a Stalinist-type social realism. These mimicries have been defended, most eloquently by Slovenia's well-known Lacanian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, not as ironic imitations, but as a form of over-identification that brings to light the obscene phantasmatic underside of the ideological system. The state tried to label the punk-alternative culture with the fascist stigma (banning Laibach from performing in Ljubljana, for example), but it could not answer the question: "Is it fascist?"

(from "The Utopia of Postutopia" by Johannes Birringer)

2 Comments:

Blogger NPI said...

Elsewhere Zizek is very adamant about the distinction between communism (even of the Stalinist variety) and fascism. But when it comes to the former Yugoslavia, his theoretical rigor is superceded by his nationalist prejudices. Of course this may also be a quote from earlier in his career when he was more closely aligned with Laclau and Mouffe's ideas of radical democracy.
I also doubt such a project as Laibach's has any relevance whatsoever in the US where there is no hydraulic model between art and censorship and therefore no 'phantasmatic underside' which is able to be represented aesthetically.
One might posit a US-specific performance art of 'over-identification' that pushes for relentless privatization of absolutely everything--libraries, roads, drinking fountains, parks, the police, street signs, etc. Of course the problem with this is that it's already part of the discourse. You can't over-identify with neoliberalism because it's at an ideological saturation point. Not to mention it doesn't yet have the record of shame that state fascism has. At least not in the US anyway. Free-market fundamentalism has been notoriously successful at distancing itself from its crimes or erasing them altogether.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Actually Zizek has a very interesting essay about Abu Ghraib and the underside, the unofficial US of lynchings, Abu Ghraib etc. In fact I think this is the same one in which he talks about Laibach. I think this article was written in the mid-90s. But then he recycled it for the introduction to a book about NSK and Laibach called "The Interrogation Machine" (if my memory serves me well, which it generally does not) which was published around 2005. But my quote is not from Zizek but Johannes Berringer writing a out Zizek sometime in the 90s.

2:08 PM  

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