Laibach

founded in 1980

Biography

1980: Founding of the band in the Slovenian city of Trbovlje, at that time still part of 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: Shutdown of a concert in Zagreb by the army and police; after a 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 orchestras, film production, and other theater work

2015: Appearance in Pyongyang, North Korea

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Laibach is the musical offshoot of the New Slovenian Kunst Art (NSK) [New Slovenian Art]organization founded in 1984, to which the artist group IRWIN belongs, as well as the theater group Scipion Nasice (later »Red 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.« A characteristic feature of the shows, which began in 1981 and often ran for 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 showed in public (often controversially), as well as the artwork for the group’s cassette and record releases from 1983 on. This visual imagery, which included elements of Nazi contexts, symbols from communism, and motifs from folklore contexts, was always marked by a fearless over-identification with ideology and power fantasies. This is what distinguishes Laibach’s path, which since the mid-1980s has 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, first showed its penchant for political provocation with its choice of name, »Laibach,« the German rendering of Ljubljana. 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 postindustrial 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 twentieth-century totalitarian systems was to be processed and overcome by seizing and exposing the symbols that visually underpinned their power and domination. This form of citation is considered 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 Kazimir Malevich’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 constant addition of new genre elements, be it metal, hip-hop, or techno, and has recently implemented it in works such as »Also sprach Zarathustra« or »The Sound of Music.«

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

In 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 owing to their references to totalitarianism), Laibach produced a music clip under the direction of British artist Daniel Landin. The band follows its principle of over-affirmation, both in the new version of the song and in the production of the clip. 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,« underpinned with timpani and trumpets, mutates into 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 and wearing the Alpine cap of the Yugoslavian army—has two drummers at his side, Hitler Youth–style, and is accompanied by an 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