Inke Arns on Wed, 26 Aug 1998 16:56:25 +0200

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Syndicate: The Place where Symptoms become Real

The Place where Symptoms become Real: Cosmonauts, Explosive, and Hand-Made
Sausages. Impressions from Ljubljana, Slovenia, 7-12 July 1998

Inke Arns <>

Ljubljana, well, you see, strange things do happen in Ljubljana. It�s *the*
place where symptoms become real. Why? Let me tell you.

Body and the East

Arriving on the �sunny side of the Alps" (slogan of the Slovenian tourism
association), I was welcomed by heavy rain which wouldn�t stop until the
next day. The reason for my trip to Ljubljana was the opening of the
exhibition �Body and the East" at Moderna Galerija, one of the leading
institutions of contemporary art in Slovenia. The exhibition is covering
Body Art in Eastern Europe from the 1960s until today, and was curated by
Zdenka Badovinac, director of Moderna Galerija, together with collaborators
from various East European countries. I curated the section on the former
GDR, and for this section I selected only the group
�Autoperforationsartisten" (Else Gabriel, Micha Brendel, Rainer Goerss, Via
Lewandowsky), a wild bunch from 1980s Dresden, and Via Lewandowsky�s latest
work �The Artist�s Brain" (1998). �Body and the East" (7 July - 27
September 1998) runs parallel to the Body Art exhibition �Out of Action" in
Vienna and is not to be missed. Why?

The aim of the exhibition is - as the press release has it - �to acquaint
an international audience with the still little known art of so-called
Eastern Europe - the former Socialist countries. After the fall of the
Berlin wall, there has been a growing interest in contemporary art from
Eastern Europe; however, the art of the postwar era has remained more or
less obscure." How true. �Body and the East" documents and gathers work of
almost 80 artists and artists� groups from 14 countries, from Bulgaria,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Repulic, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Lithuania,
Hungary, Moldova, the former German Democratic Republic, Poland, Romania,
Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia. The exhibition roughly follows the
historical time line, there are sections for the 60s, the 70s, the 80s and
the 90s. Although I knew about some of the artists included in this
exhibition, it was really impressive to see all the material displayed in
one place.

A very rewarding read is Zdenka Badovinac�s introductory catalogue text
�Body and the East" which will be printed in the catalogue documenting the
exhibition (forthcoming). Badovinac is discussing the body as a metaphor
for various games of power and control: the games of control in the
relationships between East and West, and between body and reason. She is
discussing the relationship between the individual and the collective as
evidenced in Eastern European body art of the sixties and seventies,
between identity and the assumed role of the body in the framework of art
in the eighties, and between the old and the new identity of body art in
the period of social and political transitions in the East in the nineties.
You�ll find many interesting insights concerning the East/West divide, the
�representational� role of the eastern artist, positions of power,
identity, strangeness and otherness, the absent and the non-articulated,
and it contains many interesting references; in short: a �must� for all
Syndicalists! (I�ll try to get it on the list!)

For those who will be around: On Friday 11 September 1998 at 8 p.m. there
will be two performances by Oleg Kulik (RUS) and Peter Mlakar (SLO). The
philosopher Mlakar is not to be missed, he�s notorious for being
responsable for the speeches of NSK�s Department of Pure and Practival
Philosophy traditionally delivered before Laibach concerts
<>. On Saturday 12 September 1998 there will be a
one-day conference, chaired by Spela Mlakar. Participants will be: Parveen
Adams and Mark Cousins from London, Bojana Pejic from Berlin, Piotr
Piotrowski from Poznan and Renata Salecl from Ljubljana.

The crowded opening of �Body and the East" was a big party, with the
inevitable Alexander Brener throwing eggs at some important people. One egg
hit an important man�s head, and as he happened to be bald, the organic
liquid contained in the egg slowly slided down on his shiny head. It was
all a big scandal, of course. There also was a buffet for the opening,
consisting of a table covered with apparently hand-made sausages, lined up
in different colours. The table looked as if covered with intestines. You
had to use scissors to cut off the small sausages. They were very tasty. At
the buffet, I got the chance to talk to Brener. He proved to be a very
friendly person.

Cosmonaut-Symptom: Noordung Prayer Machine

Next to the table with the hand-made sausages, I bumped into Dragan
Zivadinov, director of the NSK performance department �Cosmokinetic Cabinet
Noordung". He is quite an impressive figure, with this inspired and frenzy
look in his eyes. When he looks at you, you feel very small. I asked him:
�Hey, Dragan, what�s up? What�s new?", expecting an elaborate but a little
bit confused musing about future plans. He replied: �Well, I am going into
space." I reply: �Oh, you do?", not believing him, of course. The look in
his eyes, you know. �Yes, I am going to be a cosmonaut." Me, jokingly: �Oh,
really, tell me, how are you going to do that?" And then he started to tell
me at length and in detail about his medical check-ups, how he passed them
successfully, that his health condition couldn�t be better (that�s what the
physicists from Kazakhstan say), and that next month he will start a
training program for cosmonauts, first in Belgium and then in Germany. The
last phase of the training program will take place in Kazakhstan. In all,
it will take several months, up to half a year. And then, he will go into
space. He will be the world�s first civilian cosmonaut.

I didn�t interrupt him while he was talking. I slowly realized that this
wasn�t a joke. He was being deadly serious. I looked at him and realized
that he really would be a cosmonaut. At that moment it became clear to me
that him becoming a cosmonaut was just the logical outcome of the internal
logic of his activities and the projects he had been working on over the
past decade. The pieces of the puzzle finally come together.

Back in 1994, Dragan Zivadinov announced a project which would last for the
next 50 years. This announcement of the �Noordung Prayer Machine" was, of
course, performed with a great �retrogardist� air. Here are some excerpts
from the announcement (here translated from German):

�Noordung Prayer Machine

[...] since 1990 the Cosmokinetic Cabinet Noordung focuses on the
construction of a �Prayer Machine" - a machine for the production of
holiness. On 20 April 1995 the Cosmokinetic Cabinet Noordung will premiere
a kinetic �Warttenberg� which will continue until the year 2045. 

The kinetic �Warttenberg� will be based on the relation between mimesis and
anti-mimesis and on the theater in space (zero-gravity). Twelve Slovene
actors and actresses have, by signing a contract, agreed to participate in
a production on the theme of �Love and State� which will be premiered on 20
April 1995.

On 20 April 2005 the same actors and actresses will perform the first
repetition of this production, in the same costumes, in the same scenery,
on the same day and at the same time as ten years before. If an actor or
actress dies, s/he will be replaced by a symbol. If an actress dies, she
will be replaced by a symbol and a melody; if an actor dies, he will be
replaced by a symbol and rhythm. The gaze of the viewers will be directed
vertically downwards.

The four following productions will be guided the same principle. The
second repetition will take place in 2015, the third one in 2025, the
fourth in 2035, and the fifth in 2045. By the time of the fifth repetition,
all the actors will be dead [and the stage will be full of symbols,
melodies and rhythms]. The only survivor will be Dragan Zivadinov, who will
carry the symbols to Russia. From there, using a space ship, he will bring
the symbols to the point of zero-gravity (38.000 km above the planet Earth)
and release them into space. By doing so, Zivadinov will thus abolish

The �living sculpture� is a space in which actors will die, but viewers
survive as witnesses. The �Noordung Prayer Machine� is a machine which
vertically looks down."

(this is an excerpt from the program of �Noordung Prayer Machine - Ballet",
performed during the 11th Summer Theater Festival, Hamburg 1994)

Well, the premiere in 1995 really took place. I was there. I can prove it.
David d�Heilly from Tokyo videotaped the whole event. Bookmark 20 April
2005 for the �Cosmistic Action One Versus One", first repetition, make a
flight reservation for Ljubljana, Slovenia, and watch out for news from
Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

By the way, Igor Stromajer aka intim@ has created an interactive web art
project entitled �interno-inferno" <>,
which is dedicated to the "[G]reat [T]eacher and [A]stronaut [GTA]" Dragan
Zivadinov. It has been running since October 1996. �interno-inferno" offers
the possibility to co-/re-create the virtual psych/o[gram], physi/o[gram],
art/o[gram], i.e. the virtual life and fiction art work of the �great
teacher and astronaut�. The project will be under construction until the
end of GTA�s real life. After his death, a CD-ROM (or any other digital
data carrier available at that time) will be given to him as a present from
all the online people to take it with him wherever he goes.


I visited Vadim Fishkin�s exhibition �dedicated to..." at Kapelica
Galerija. In the center of an almost completely empty and dark gallery
space, there�s a red button on a dramatically lit board. The text says:
�Press the button" and �tell your name" and then wait (I forgot the right
order, I guess). Anyway, after some failed attempts I finally got my
reward: The prerecorded announcement correctly repeats �This exhibition is
dedicated to..." and then plays my voice �...Inke Arns". Hmm. This
exhibition is dedicated to me? But which exhibition? What the hell is this
all about? Am I being recorded by a hidden camera or so? I almost want to
leave that place. Suddenly, there�s a noise coming from the wall - and a
great firework starts!! In the dark gallery space! There is fire on the
wall, performing revolving geometrical movements, a real Chinese fireworks,
with the flames and the smoke darkening the wall -- and I am overwhelmed by
so much grandeur of the heart: Fishkin dedicates his exhibition to *me*! I
guess the feeling I had at that moment is simply called �happiness". Later,
when I meet Vadim Fishkin, I express my gratitude and he tells me how he
together with Jurij Krpan, the good spirit of Kapelica, smuggled the
fireworks from Austria to Slovenia: apparently the whole car was filled
with explosives.

Vadim Fishkin is a Russian artist who is dividing his time between Moscow
and Ljubljana, and who has been working with NSK�s theatre department
�Cosmokinetic Cabinet Noordung" for quite some time now
<>. Galerija S.O.U. Kapelica is run
by the architect Jurij Krpan, and is one of the �hottest� places in
Ljubljana. Kapelica�s website is worth visiting <>:
after being welcomed by the telling sentence �Art is the Evil of Culture",
you will find a comprehensive documentation of the gallery�s activities
since 1995.

�Would you trust these people?"

Another exhibition I visited was Marko Peljhan�s �Would you trust these
people?" at Mala Galerija (�Small Gallery" of Moderna Galerija). The work
consists of a single very large photo (ca. 3 x 1 m), lit from behind.
There�s also a low noise generating sound system installed in the space. On
the photo, there are about 20 serious-looking young people, placed in front
of a nightly urban setting, dressed in young urban guerilla style, casually
wearing heavy weaponry. �Would you trust these people?" reads the slogan
written across the photo. It assembles all the people who collaborated with
Makrolab since 1992 <>. I recognize Jurij
Krpan (carrying an anti-tank device), Eda Cufer (machine gun), and Luka
Frelih (a hand grenade?). At first sight, it looks very stylish and reminds
me of an advertisement by a German bank showing young people, DJs and
ravers with coloured hair and frenzy looks, a voice asking the viewer
�Would you trust these people?" Well, �of course not" is the viewer�s
implicit answer. �But we do!". Of course. (Which is a very cynical
statement especially here in Germany: no bank would give you credit if
you�re young and want to start your own business). On second thought I
realize that the people on Peljhan�s photo are carrying *real* weapons. Hm.
Where did they get all the weapons from? Are they circulating freely in
this country? Does Jurij Krpan have an anti-tank weapon in his gallery? Or
is Eda hiding a machine gun under her bed? Marko later tells me that on the
photo he has erased all the serial numbers which are engraved on the
weapons, to prevent tracing back the sources where the weapons came from.
He wouldn�t tell me more ...

The Klagenfurt Air Aviation Show

One day, while having tons of coffee in one of the many caf�©s in Ljubljana,
Eda Cufer asked me whether I�d like to join them for a trip to Austria on
the weekend. I happily agreed, and asked �What�s the plan?" - �Well,
there�s an air aviation show in Klagenfurt, and we want to go and see it."
I was flabbergasted. *Eda* asks me whether *I* want to go visit a military
air aviation show? Actually, the whole crowd - Marko Peljhan, Eda Cufer,
Vadim Fishkin, Mateja Bucar, Michael Benson, and a journalist (forgot her
name!) from Ljubljana - genuinly seemed excited about the idea of watching
military airplanes performing air acrobatics. On the next day, we left for
Austria in two cars. At the border we presented a nice mixture of American,
Slovenian, Russian, NSK and German passports.

Across the Alps and the Loibltunnel, we reached Klagenfurt. The airport of
Klagenfurt was packed, buses were taking the visitors to the other side of
the runway. �Whow, look, there comes the Mirage 2000!!" The sound is
deafening. I never experienced such a noise which seems to be coming right
from hell. The sound is not where the Mirage is, but it is following the
airplane at a distance of about 50 - 100 m behind. It almost becomes
visible, like an independent entity. When you see the Mirage, you don�t
hear it - the sound comes seconds after. This reminds me of Pynchon�s great
book �Gravity�s Rainbow" where he describes the German WW2 bombing of
London: people wouldn�t notice the approach of a V rocket; the sound only
came after impact. Back to Klagenfurt 1998: In front of us, just 150 - 200
m away, the triangular shape of the Mirage 2000 is flying above the runway,
20 m above the ground, from right to left, then from left to right, first
in a horizontal position, then in a vertical position (*yes*, vertical,
with one wing pointing towards the sky, the other to the ground), at
maximum and at minimum speed (very interesting: just imagine a Mirage at
200 km/h, it look quite stupid). Then the Mirage is going vertically
upwards, right into the sky, like a rocket. Suddenly, there�s silence. The
pilot switched off the engine. The Mirage still goes up, then stops, stands
still in the sky, and then slowly starts falling down, with the back
pointing at us. Absolute silence. The black triangle is accelerating, and
falling down. The pilot turns the Mirage, which is now pointing its front
to the ground. No sound. The plane is now falling at great speed. After
seconds which seem like an eternity, shortly before �the point of no
return", the engines are switched on again. The Austrian announcer explains
that the pilot has to endure a massive pressure on his body. No wonder,
really. My friends discuss technical details. They have that specialist air
around them. 

The Visa Question

Then comes the Russian contribution: a Russian MIG with a Russian pilot,
coming directly from Russia (shouldn�t take so long). The announcer praises
the pilot, saying that he�s a former cosmonaut who made use of the ejector
seat several times; a really tough guy. He tells the whole story in German,
of course (we are in Austria), and I translate for Michael, who, being an
American living in Slovenia, obviously knows more Slovenian than German.
�You see, Michael, now comes the Russian MIG with a great Russian
pilot-hero, a former cosmonaut, and coming directly from the heart of
Russia he is not going to land, because they denied to issue him a visa."
Silence. Michael slowly turns, stares at me. �What? They didn�t give him a
visa? Are you joking?! These damn Austrians didn�t give him a visa? Oh,
that�s typical again, these Austrians!" He is really upset. I tell him that
it was a joke, that it�s normal, that, arriving from Russia, the Russian
pilot is already �in the air� and that he�s just right away going to start
his performance. But Michael doesn�t quite seem to believe me. I guess my
joke just sounded much too �real�.

Returning to Ljubljana and the �Body and the East" exhibition, I
unexpectedly meet Dragan Zivadinov again. I ask him about his space
program, about technical details and financial support. He is being very
secretive and doesn�t want to tell me the name of the company who is
sponsoring him and his space project. Later on, I meet Vadim Fishkin. He
lifts the secret about the company�s name, a big Western tobacco giant.
Some years ago, this company already sponsored a rocket launch from
Baikonur, Kazakhstan, and made a big global advertisement gig out of it.
Everything seems possible. Zivadinov being a cosmonaut. NSK taking over
Baikonur and appropriating advertisement strategies with world wide effect.
And in the year 2045, �Retrogarda� will be abolished with support from the
West, in zero-gravity. Remember, you heard it here first.

Well, you see, strange things do happen in Ljubljana. It�s *the* place
where symptoms become real. I could go on about Gregor Podnar�s activities
in SKUC Gallery, and Marko Peljhan cooking for the people at Metelkova, the
former army barracks of the Yugoslav People�s Army; located in the center
of Ljubljana, destroyed half-way in 1991 by the army before leaving
Slovenia. I could tell stories about Michael Benson, director of Kinetikon
Pictures <>, putting explosives in his
old VW and blowing it up in the beautiful Slovenian landscape. These are
the last shots for his documentary film on �Transnationala", Irwin�s trip
from the East to the West Coast of the United States in 1996
<>. I could tell you about Josif Bakhstein and
the ironic twinkle in his eyes, as well as interesting and very intense
discussions with Irwin  .... I could.

Instead of doing that, you better go there, see for yourselves, and order a
catalogue of the �Body and the East" exhibition.

Berlin, August 1998


Moderna Galerija
Adela Zeleznik
Tomsiceva 14
1000 Ljubljana
Tel +386 - 61 - 214 101 or 106
Fax +386 - 61 - 214 120
e-mail <>


Igor Stromajer aka intim@, �interno-inferno"

Vadim Fishkin is a guest of the NSK Electronic Embassy

Galerija S.O.U. Kapelica
Kersnikova 4
Tel +386 - 61 - 131 70 10
Fax +386 - 61 - 319 448


Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures

�Transnationala" - Irwin�s trip from the East to the West Coast of the
United States in 1996

NSK Electronic Embassy, including NSK�s Department of Pure and Practival

i n k e . a r n s __________________________ b e r l i n ___
49.(0)30.3136678 | |