It is hard to imagine a better ending of this year’s festival than an open music show by a Slovenian band Laibach. Outdoor concerts are the trademark of Malta Festival Poznań, and the idiom “The Balkans Platform” encourages us to exmine our stereotypic preconceptions about state communities and the relationship between art and politics.
Laibach likes to provoke and its works escape rigid categorization. With their every next record, performance and interview, the artists express their opposition to nationalism and mistrust of the political, social and ethical systems. In their works, they recycle symbols and motifs from the history of culture and European totalitarianisms. In their opinion: “All arts are subject to political manipulation, except for those which use the language of this manipulation”.
Malta’s finale, planned for 24 June, will be an interdisciplinary event, combining industrial sounds and evocative setting with a classic orchestra arrangement. The band will prepare the Polish premiere of “The Sound of Music” in collaboration with Poznań l’Autunno Chamber Orchestra with the guest conductor Simon Dvoršak. The concert will feature, among others, the arrangement of Andrzej Panufnik’s insurrectionary song “Warszawskie dzieci” [Warsaw children], a military hit “Tanz mit Laibach” and covers of songs from the musical “The Sound of Music” the artists performed during their famous concert tour in North Korea in 2015.
Laibach goes far beyond the idea of a cult band – it combines and undermines both the world of mainstream rock and the avant-garde. “Art today is the subject of not only political, but also economic manipulation,” says Ivan Novak. “And there is always some system against which you should rebel.”
The concert of Laibach will take place on 24 June 2017 at 22:00 in Park Wieniawskiego in Poznań. Admission to the concert will be free.
Laibach is a music and cross-media group from Slovenia established on the 1st of June 1980 in Trbovlje. The name of the band is the historic German version of the Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana. From the start Laibach has developed a “Gesamtkunstwerk” – multi-disciplinary art practice in all fields ranging from popular culture to art (collages, photo-copies, posters, graphics, paintings, videos, installations, concerts and performances). Since their beginnings the group was associated and surrounded with controversy, provoking strong reactions from political authorities of former Yugoslavia and in particular in the Socialist Republic of Slovenia. Their militaristic self-stylization, propagandist manifestos and totalitarian statements have raised many debates on their actual artistic and political positioning. Many important theorists, among them Boris Groys and Slavoj Žižek, have discussed the Laibach phenomenon both from an analytical as well as critical cultural point of view. The main elements of Laibach’s varied practices are: strong references to avant-garde art history, nazi-kunst and socialist realism for their production of visual art, de-individualization in their public performances as an anonymous quartet dressed in uniforms, conceptual proclamations, and forceful sonic stage performances – mainly labeled as industrial pop music. Laibach is practicing collective work, dismantling individual authorship and establishing the principle of hyper-identification. In 1983 they have invented and defined the historic term ‘retro-avant-garde’. They creatively questioned artistic ‘quotation’, appropriation, and re-contextualization, copyright and copy-left. Although starting out as both an art and music collective, Laibach became internationally renowned foremost on the music scene, particularly with their unique cover-versions and interpretations of hits by Queen, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, etc.
After the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991, Laibach continued mostly within the realm of popular music, while remaining a point of reference in terms of artistic cultural criticism. During recent years the group underwent an international re-evaluation of their artistic practice in the course of an emergence of post-structuralist views on worldwide conceptual art production. In 2006 Laibach recorded a conceptual album Volk which containing versions of 14 national anthems, including one for their art collective, NSK, which they had declared a virtual country in 1991, issuing their own passports.
With their latest album Spectre (released on Mute in 2014) Laibach created an important step forward in their career. The group – which has never defined itself politically, but has constantly analyzed politics through its work – comes across as politically engaged as never before. Spectre sounds like a political manifesto in poetic form.
In 2008, Laibach presented a loose reinterpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's The Art of Fugue which premièred in Bach festival in Leipzig. Since this work has no specifications of acquired instruments and is furthermore based on mathematical principles, Laibach has argued that the music can be seen as proto-techno.
One year later, Laibach presented the project Volkswagner – an interpretation of Wagner's music in collaboration with the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra and Izidor Leitinger in Gallus Hall of Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana.
In August 2015, Laibach became the first ever band of its kind to perform in the secretive country of North Korea, a reclusive garrison state as well-known for its military marches, mass gymnastics and hymns to the Great Leader, as for its defiant resistance to Western popular culture. Laibach’s Liberation Day’s concert coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Korean peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonization and its subsequent division into two enemy states, which confront each other in an uneasy truce to this day. The concert was a great success and provoked a massive media debate around the world. The event and the whole of Laibach’s visit to North Korea was been filmed and is the subject of the full-length documentary Liberation Day, premièred in 2016.
Laibach has created music for several theatre productions and took part in feature-length movies. In the last years the grouped performed i.a. in Queen Elisabeth Hall in London, National Gallery of Denmark, Volksbuehne Theater and Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, EXPO 2000 in Hannover, EXIT Festival, Sziget Festival or Tate Modern in London. Slovenian music and cross-media group Laibach – describing themselves as ‘engineers of human souls’ – presented with a great success a multi-media show recreating moments key from their history in the early 1980s to the future, in a performance specially designed for the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern, London.