“In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles”. David Ben-Gurion1

“Be realistic – demand the impossible!” – Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible! – Anonymous graffiti, Paris 1968

“Realists are, as a rule, only men in the rut of routine who are incapable of transcending a narrow circle of antiquated notions”. Theodor Herzl2

In principle 3, we argued that art should leave the safety of autonomy and connect with communities in order to be effective as well as activate a process of change. Medinat Weimar declares itself to be an art project that is a political movement that will lead to a state. The project has to completely believe in this, it has to act as if it believes of the possibility that its vision will come true and argue for its importance and relevance. On the other hand, at the first vulnerable stages of the project when the movement does not really exist anywhere but in the head of its creator, it needs the protection and safety of art. I needed to play this double game of being in the framework of art and desiring an organization of a group of people who would work together to achieve a political goal. I wanted to turn my absurd idea into a social organism. When asked, “do you believe in it? Are you serious? Do you really want a Jewish state in Thuringia?” My answer then is that I really do believe in the project and the discussions it wants to raise and I am therefore completely serious about the project.

Adorno argues that art that serves a party is a betrayal of arts power of resistance. He took the position that art cannot instrumentalize itself on the basis of political commitments without undermining the autonomy on which it depends and thereby undoing itself as art. My goal is to make art that is a party, not serving the party. The elementary agenda of the project is creating a movement. The party is the artwork.

By leaving the question of seriousness open, and by allowing the audience to remain confused as to whether it’s real or not, I create a sense of power for the project and one should not attempt to overcome it.

“Yomango is a brand name whose principal objective as is the case with all important brands, is not the selling of things, but the mass promoting of a life-style. Specifically, the promoting of shoplifting as a form of disobedience and direct action against multinational corporations… Buying is an action based on obedience; (we are) taking to the extreme the free circulation of goods.”

***

Yomango is an activist artist collective established in 2002 in Barcelona, that called on anti-consumerist activists to “liberate” goods from stores in an effort to spread the ideals of brand-free living. Yomango, itself a slang word for shoplifting and a play on the popular European Mango clothing label, offers adapted clothing and shopping bags specially designed for the “disappearing” products of the retail outlets of global emporiums. The Yomango campaign also provides free workshops on how to defeat security systems through orchestrated teamwork that on one occasion, when marking the Argentinean riots of December 2001, even took the form of a choreographed dance session.

With the Yomango approach to shoplifting comes not only a form of civil disobedience in which reflexive kleptomania is directed against the homogenizing and instrumentalizing effect of global capital, but also put a mirror to values of the society that promotes senseless consumerism. If we continuously told by advertising campaigns that we are not happy unless we own a specific product, and that this is our human right in order to acheive happiness, isn’t it our duty to get hold of the product so we can be happy? Yomango does not go against the ideology of capitalism, it just takes to it logical extreme.

Slavoj Zizek calls this, ‘Over-identification’ with the ‘hidden reverse’ of ideology. Inke Arns explains this very well:

“According to Slavoj Zizek and Peter Sloterdijk, overtly criticizing the ideology of a system misses the point, because today every ideological discourse is marked by cynicism. This means that every ideological discourse has internalized, and thus already anticipated, its own critique. Ideology does not ‘believe’ its own declarations anymore; it assumed a cynical distance towards its own moral premises. Consequently it became impossible to adequately encounter cynicism as a universal and diffuse phenomenon through the traditional means of critique of ideology (e.g. through enlightened engagement). Vis-à-vis a cynical ideology, according to Zizek, the means of irony becomes something that ‘plays into the hands of power’. The public declarations and values of an ideology are ‘cynical’; they are actually not to be taken seriously. But as soon as an ‘adequate distance’ no longer is kept, when an ‘over-identification’ with ideology takes place, the so-called ‘ruling ideology’ has a problem.”3

NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst), the art movement from Slovenia who inspired the writing of Zizek, addressed these unspoken ideological ideas. By using violence, fascination, enjoyment (jouissance), and through the strategy of ‘over-identification’, they brought this ‘hidden reverse’ into the light of day.

NSK’s strategy does not aim at overcoming the power of ideological signs through irony, parody or satire, but it is rather about calling our attention to the power of these signs. Their strategy works towards a return to, a reconstruction of, and, consequently a deconstruction of ideology into the aesthetical elements that constitute its power. The Slovenian collective is not saying that this ideology cannot be overcome. Yet, it is calling our attention to the foundations of the ideology and through that, that ideology can be partly deprived of its power.

Creation of a Dysfunctional Ideology

In 1991, NSK established a State. They issued passports, presented their work in the guise of an embassy or even as a territory of their supposed state, and maintained consulates in several cities. NSK have also issued postage stamps. Laibach, the NSK music group, recorded (some may say ‘remixed’) the NSK State National Anthem on the LP “Volk”.

Thesis of the NSK State:
1. The synthesis of a unified system and a unified economy created the modern state.
2. In such a state art is an integrated political process subjected to the integrated production of consciousness.
3. Every art is therefore in the service of global authority, except that which subjects global authority to its own rule.
4. NSK State is an abstract organism, a suprematist body installed in real social and political space as a sculpture comprising the concrete body warmth, spirit and work of its members.
5. NSK confers the status of a state not to territory but to mind, whose borders are in
a state of flux, in accordance with the movements and changes of its symbolic and physical collective body.
6. NSK considers its existence within the framework of an autonomous state as an artistic act to which all other creative procedures are subjected.
7. The NSK State embodies a social concept satisfying the needs of the community under the conditions of the modern world.
8. The NSK State reveals and performs an exorcism aiming at expelling the political language of global structures from the language of art.

According to Zizek, the deconstruction of ideology – which is performed most effectively by NSK and its ‘Laibach’ performances – has to be understood as a process working on two levels: first as a de-contextualization, a detachment of single elements from the context that give meaning to the phenomena. And second as a re-contextualization of these meaningless fragments within a dysfunctional or pseudo ideology created by the collective.

This supposed offer for identification, which seems to be inherent in all the ideological elements used by NSK, dissolves after the removal of the context granting meaning. The elements and splinters of ideology that are left over can now be experienced in the ‘complete stupidity of their material presence’ (Zizek). Some say art is like a mirror to society and this strategy can be described like ‘holding up a distorted mirror’.

However, these practices are far from apparent to everyone and NSK’s simulation of what it questions could be so dangerously credible that it does seem to be obvious, leaving no room for any doubt. I remember as a young teenager in Israel becoming aware of claims that Laibach were a Nazi band and of accusations directed towards fans of industrial rock as being fascist sympathizers. “The June 1983 TV interview action was framed to confirm the mainstream media’s claims that Laibach and the rest of the Slovene alternative scene were actually fascist. The sight of Laibach on TV, together with its extreme statements provoked a media storm, driving the group underground and provoking the four-year ban on Laibach appearances in Ljubljana. All the evidence necessary to condemn it was present, except… Laibach’s “fascistic” statements actually sampled self-management texts, their uniforms were Yugoslav army fatigues, and so on. All the elements used to prove the group’s guilt also “prove” their innocence. This is the paradoxical position from which Laibach respond to the “eternal question” about if they are really fascist: “Isn’t it evident?”4

On NSKstate.com, Alexei Monroe explains why although we are fascinated with NSK, we can’t really identify with them.

“NSK works function by manipulating paradox and neither assimilating nor resolving their contradictory sources. NSK texts intensify this effect, raising questions even as they seem to answer them. The cumulative effect is a machine of expression that interrogates the onlooker as well as the sources of the works, placing on them the responsibility to process the contradictions generated by the works. Simultaneously, NSK interrogate their sources and their inter-relations, raising questions of censorship, artistic value, the nature of national identity, historical memory, past and future realities. Over time the NSK Interrogation Machine has mutated and proliferated to bring everything into its scope… NSK intervention adds to the body of mythology and rumour, generating further noise and making it more difficult to identify “true” intentions and producing more disputes about what they really stand for. The fundamental symbolic meaning of a system is thrown into question, to the extent that its “true” meaning becomes open to dispute. This is a type of dialectical process that generates endless debate about whether the “hidden reverse” of a system (as opposed to its user-friendly public interface) is not actually its “true” face.”5

Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest

“A Danish paper publishes a cartoon that mocks Muslims. An Iranian paper then responds with a Holocaust cartoon contest. Now a group of Israelis announces their own anti-Semitic cartoon contest!”

That’s how Eyal Zusman, copywriter and playwright, and Amitai Sandy, graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing from Tel-Aviv in Israel, issued their press release on March 2006. On following the unfolding of the “Muhammad cartoon-gate” events with amazement, they came up with the right response to all the insanity – they announced the launching of a new anti-Semitic cartoon contest – this time drawn up by Jews themselves!

“We’ll show the world we can produce the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew-hating cartoons ever published!” “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”6

The contest was announced on a website www.boomka.org, and within a month they received over 150 submissions from Jews all over the world. There was also meant to be an exhibition in Tel-Aviv, but that was canceled in the end. This wasn’t important as they had already accomplished their goals.

“When my father heard about the contest, he said: “Amitai, you think the entire world is as intelligent and educated as you are, but the fact is, 95% of them are stupid, they will not understand your joke and they will take it the wrong way.” I have also always been pessimistic about how many people will understand the joke, but time and again I’ve been surprised for the better – so many more people understood my joke than what I expected.

Not only Jews around the world wrote to me that this answer to the Muslim madness “made them proud to be Jews”, but we also received praise from bloggers in Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, and of course there was the unforgettable American of Iranian origin who wrote: “I’ve heard that the Jews are planning to take over the world. I hope it happens soon.”7

The most common criticism against the contest was that the cartoons they published would be used out of context by real anti-Semites to spread further hatred against Jews. To this Sandy said, “I don’t deny the danger of these cartoons being used against Jews, but anti-Semites will always find excuses for hatred, with or without our help. We’ve been accused of everything from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, the killing of Jesus and original sin. Anti-Semites have been using and reusing the old cartoons from Der Strummer and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Arabic newspapers have produced dozens of them on a daily basis for years on years. I don’t think a few more cartoons, many of them so obviously satiric, will make much of a difference.”8

The contest is aware of the dangers of using stereotypes but suggest that instead of trying to suppress the use of stereotypes, and then failing miserably all the time, one should instead exaggerate them. The solution they are suggesting isn’t new, but they feel that sadly, it’s not being used enough. In order to make people aware of their regular patterns of thinking, and making them doubt them, we need to take things to the absurd. One good way of making them think twice so they begin to doubt their own views, is by using humor. This element in exaggerating stereotypes can be provocative, yet if done right, it can also cause thought-provoking processes to occur.

Sandy feels we should be able to joke about everything. “The holiness of terms like the Holocaust only shows how they make people stop thinking and of being aware of their surroundings. It is a boundary of speech and of thinking. If views become holy, they are very hard to change. Only if you break this boundary, for instance by joking about it, can new dimensions come up. If something is holy, it means we can’t joke about it. If we can’t joke about it, how will we see it has become wrong? Just as much as stereotypes between different cultures have to be joked about and broken, we should always question our own views and frames of mind: is this a fair picture or is this already causing an injustice to someone?”

****

The Front Deutscher Äpfel (short F.D.Ä.; German for Front of German Apples), also called Apfelfront (Apple Front) is an organization founded in Leipzig in 2004. It satirizes right extremist parties, especially the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (NPD). In style of former and existing right extremist organizational structures, it is subdivided into numerous sub-groups like the youth organization Nationales Frischobst Deutschland (NFD or National Fresh Fruit of Germany), the women’s organization Bund weicher Birnen (B.W.B.; League of Soft Pears, compare League of German Girls) and many further local Gaue.

Apple Front activists dress in fascist party style like uniforms bearing symbols parodying right extremist symbols. The movement calls for the purification of the German fruit crop. The organization describes itself as a “National initiative against the overforeignization of German fruit crop and against lazy/rotten mooching windfall” (faul means both lazy and rotten).

The key demands of the of the organization are:

1. Termination of the overforeignisation of German fruit by engrafting of foreign species.
2. Closing the borders against tropical fruits (“Grenzen dicht für Fremdobst!” – in English, “Close the borders against foreign fruit!”
3. Elimination of lazy/rotten windfall – “Macht Fallobst zu Mus!” (Make windfall to mush).

The Apfelfront tries to use overly Germanized terminology in press releases and statements, at public demonstrations and on their website. Terms, slogans and rhetorical devices used by the NPD such as “Grenzen dicht!” (“Close the borders!”), are singled out by the Apple Front but are changed in their political message to orchard and fruit terminology in order to make the original political statements and their representatives ridiculous. They consider themselves to be artists who are trying to break away from the demonstration-counterdemonstration ritual.

Since the founding thereof, the Apfelfront has attended all larger NPD and neo-Nazi marches or parades, especially in Eastern Germany. Disruptions occasionally arise after an appearance by the Apfelfront, especially as the flags and symbols are not always immediately recognized as a parody. Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk published an article about the NPD on 25 July 2006, in which it portrayed a photo of the Apfelfront, with a subtitle, “The NPD wants to distance itself from its image of violence”. The mistake was soon noticed, and the picture was removed.9

————-

1 Interview on CBS, (5 October 1956)
2 Der Judenstaat (1896)
3 Inke Arns, Mobile States | Shifting Borders | Moving Entities: The Slovenian Artists’ Collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK),  www.nskstate.com
4 Alexei Monroe, XY Unsolved: NSK and Encrypted Culture  www.nskstate.com
5 Ibid
6 Anti-Semitic cartoon contest, press release, 13.2.2006
7 Conversation with artist, February 2007
8 Ibid
9 www.apfelfront.de

COMMENTS / ONE COMMENT

But let me back up a moment in his story. ,

Barbara11 added these pithy words on Oct 22 09 at 22:25

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