Laibach

founded in 1980

Biography

1980 Founding of the band in the Slovenian city of Trbovlje, at that time still the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

1982 First concerts in Ljubljana, Zagreb and Belgrade on the »Tour of the Three Capitals«; suicide of singer Tomaž Hostnik

1983 Shut-down of a concert in Zagreb by the army and police; after the performance on a TV show, the name »Laibach« and the band’s appearance was banned throughout Yugoslavia until 1987

1983–1985 »Occupied Europe Tour« through various western and central European cities

1984 Founding of the umbrella organization Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) jointly with the artist group Irwin (painting, graphics) and the theater group Gledališče Sester Scipion Nasice (later named Kozmokinetično Gledališče »Rdeči Pilot« or Kozmokinetični kabinet NOORDUNG); joint founding of the graphics office Novi Kolektivizem and other sub-departments

Since 1984 Record releases with national (ŠKUC/Ropot) and international labels (Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien, Cherry Red, Mute)

Since 1986 Collaborations with various directors and choreographers for national and international stage productions

1992 Co-founding of the »NSK State in Time«, a parastate structure that still exists today;

1994–1995 Two-year tour of »Occupied Europe NATO Tour« through various western and central European cities

Since mid 1990s Work with various orchestra, film productions as well as other theater work;

2015 Appearance in Pjöngjang, North Korea

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Laibach is the musical offshoot of the New Slovenian Art (NSK) organization founded in 1984, to which the artist group IRWIN belongs, as well as the theater group Scipion Nasice (later »Roter Pilot« or NOORDUNG). The latter is a pseudonym of Marcel Duchamp’s which first appeared in 1983. Up until that time, the music group had set up multiple exhibitions under the signature »Laibach Kunst.« Characteristic of the shows, which began in 1981, and often lasted only one evening, was the combination of painting (often »repainted« classics of folk art or Socialist Realism), graphic works (often created using the technique of Xerox copying which was new at the time), video montages and documentary material (for example, about its 1983 Occupied Europe Tour). The style of these works was also strikingly reflected in the many poster designs which Laibach (often controversially) showed in public, as well as the design of the group’s cassette and record releases starting in 1983. This visual imagery, which included elements of Nazi contexts, symbols from communism or motifs from folklore contexts, was always marked by a fearless, over-identification of ideology and power fantasies. This is what distinguishes Laibach’s path, which starting in the mid-1980’s to the present day, primarily focused on music.

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Author: Christian Höller

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Music

Music

The band, founded in the Slovenian mining town of Trbovlje in 1980, began its political provocation with the choice of a German name – »Laibach«. The band members also took »Germanic« pseudonyms, EBER – SALIGER – KELLER – DACHAUER, which were frowned upon at the time in the former Yugoslavia. The group’s rather bombastic sound was characterized from the beginning by post-industrial elements (strong percussion, mechanical sound) as well as totalitarian ingredients (classical fanfares, martial intonation, German lyrics seemingly paying homage to a strong leader principle). The music of Laibach is committed to the principle of the »retro-avant-garde,« as is the case with the artistic work of the other NSK groups: The compromising of the historical avant-gardes by 20th century totalitarian systems was to be processed and overcome by seizing and exposing the symbols visually underlying the latters power and domination. This form of citation is considered as an effective means to break through the phantasms and traumas of dictatorship and anti-democratic rule. In the band's iconography this is manifested in the excessive use of the black cross, which is an ambivalent play on Kasimir Malewich’s painting with the same name, but also on the Greek (»common«) cross and the Balkan cross of the German Wehrmacht. Musically, the band soon began to create »new originals« (Alexei Monroe) of apparently non-political pop classics, exposing their latent fascistic content. In Laibach's music, which is clearly based on sampling, elements from classical music (Wagner, Bruckner, Orff, Shostakovich, Penderecki) go hand in hand with appropriations from pop pieces by Queen, Opus, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones – a fusion that is also called »militant classicism.« Laibach continues to cultivate this style today, with the addition of ever new genre elements, whether metal, hip hop or techno, and has recently implemented it in works such as »Also sprach Zarathustra« or »The Sound of Music.«

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Musically, the band soon began to create »new originals« (Alexei Monroe) of apparently non-political pop classics, exposing the latent fascistic content. Elements from classical music (Wagner, Bruckner, Orff, Shostakovich, Penderecki) go hand in hand in Laibach’s music, which is clearly based on sampling, with appropriations from pop pieces by Queen, Opus, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones – a fusion that is also called »militant classicism.« Laibach continues to cultivate this style today, with the addition of ever new genre elements, whether metal, hip hop or techno, and has recently implemented it in works such as »Also sprach Zarathustra« or »The Sound of Music.«

Author: Christian Höller

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Laibach

Birth of a Nation, 1987 with Dejan Knez (synth., perc. b.), Ivan Novak (synth. voc.), Milan Fras (voc.), Daniel Landin (clarinet), 4:21 min

Film: Daniel Landin, Published/Released: Mute Recordss

1987 Laibach covered the song »One Vision« by the English mega band Queen for its LP Opus Dei. Already under contract with the Mute label and internationally known (and highly controversial due to their totalitarianism references), Laibach produced a music clip under the direction of the Brit, Daniel Landin. The band follows its principle of over-affirmation, both in the new version of the song and in the clip production: Without much literary intervention, Freddy Mercury’s »One flesh, one blood, one true religion« – in the admittedly highly martial intonation of the singer Milan Fras – becomes the unspeakable German announcement »ein Fleisch, ein Blut, ein wahrer Glaube«. And the line »gimme one vision« mutates, underpinned with timpani and trumpets, to the plea, »Give me a mission!« The visual production, partly taken from the theater production Krst Pod Triglavom (1986), both confirms and undermines this: the singer, with naked torso wearing the alpine cap of the Yugoslavian army, two drummers at his side like Hitler’s Youth, plus ardent fanfare and hymn blowers. »Jawoll! Yes! Jawoll!» bellows Fras, until gradually more and more of the empty theatrical gesture emerges and the Laibach cross goes up in flames.

Author:

Christian Höller