Setting out to change that is a new exhibition, called Time for a New state, coming to east London’s Calvert 22 gallery next month.
‘Basically NSK are very internally renowned, but for some reason it’s been very overlooked in the UK’ says show curator Lina Dzuverovic.
‘We’re working with a number of partners like Tate and Chelsea Space and the UCL art history department to create this London-wide season. This has been in the works for while: as NSK becomes more well known internationally there was a feeling of it being overlooked in the UK – a retrospective is long overdue.’
NSK was established in the early 1980s in what was then Yugoslavia. The highly collaborative, multi- disciplinary movement provided a platform through which artists working across multiple media including design, painting, music, theatre, literature, philosophy and performance, could explore the issues of national identity and political unrest in the region at the time.
The visual arts arm of NSK, Irwin, was founded in Ljubljana (Slovenia) in 1983 – and it is the work of this five-man-strong collective that Time for a New State will be exploring. The works on show will include 1991 work Kapital, a site-specific installation that mixes taxidermy with religious icons, ‘appropriating and recycling the symbols of past totalitarian governments and utopian art movements’, according to the gallery.
The movement’s graphic design arm, New Collecitivism, created the visual and advertising materials for the movement, which are characterised by imagery that’s reused and reappropriated from touch points such as popular culture, Totalitarian insignia and flags.
Dzuverovic says. ‘The premise is that an image is never neutral. It’s always connected to the context or the space its in. There’s a lot of coding in the posters – if you take the images apart you can create a whole visual language. Everything’s there for a reason – it makes you think about what we associate with certain imagery and how our visual triggers operate.’
There will also be an adaptation of 1996 work Transnacionala, an interactive installation enabling participants to become NSK citizens and have their own passports created, denoting citizenship of the conceptual NSK State, which was first formed in 1992. Members often join online or through meeting people at gigs of the movement’s associated Mute Records -signed band, Laibach.
Dzuverovic explains, ‘ NSK passport holders are by and large self organised but they often meet at events such as Laibach gigs or art events like the Venice Biennale, or other self-organised events . You don’t have to have a passport to be active, but many people don’t feel so affiliated with their own nationalities. They feel more a citizen of NSK – it’s basically a conceptual gathering in the lineage of Dada that gathers people through performative events.’
Some members have created their own NSK uniforms; and a newsletter published by the movement acts as a sort of journal or a zine. Dzuverovic says, ‘People take what they want form it. Many people are academics, artists thinkers philosophers and adapt it and own it to their own ends.’
The downstairs exhibition space of Calvert 22 will present a selection of NSK Folk art; a collection of artefacts created by the citizens of the NSK State in Time.
Irwin – Time for a New State and NKSK – Folk Art run from 4 April – 24 June at Calvert 22 Gallery, 22 Calvert Avenue, London E2