Neue Slowenische Kunst book is still the most comprehensive guide to the work by all the NSK groups in their collective form even although it only covers up to a point in 1990. It captures the art organisation at its artistic peak and helps to convey the impact they and their work had and possibly also its influence in the breakup of the Yugoslavian Federation. Luxuriously produced and richly illustrated throughout, it's very much a piece of art in its own right and an excellent presentation of the work.
Published in 1992 by AMOK Press in USA and Graficki zavod Hrvatske (Graphical Association of Croatia), the book has 288 pages featuring 282 colour and 229 black and white reproductions. The hardbound book came with a slipcase; its size is 26 x 185 cm. The early editions were English or Slovenian depending on the publisher, later editions had Slovenian text while enclosed with its English translation in paperback along with a NSK Passport application form.
Available around the time of the release of Kapital, in fact the album came with an order form for the book which had to be ordered from the USA. The overall cost with postage was expensive costing over £40 per book, however at the time there was a supplier in the UK and therefore a good bit cheaper. It was available from Music From The Empty Quarter who were an excellent UK based mail order firm specialising in Industrial and Electronic related music and also had been regularly publishing a magazine based on the music. Issue 5 featured excerpts from the NSK book, not to mention a little advert for issue 2 of my fanzine on Laibach - a somewhat cheaper alternative for those balking at high the cost of the book.
Although expensive the book was absolutely worth it and I can still remember the excitement opening the heavy parcel and then the thrill scanning through the richly illustrated pages. Much of it had rarely been seen before, at least outside Yugoslavia, especially the work from Irwin and the other NSK departments. Most Laibach fans outside Yugoslavia at the time were unaware or confused about the Neue Slowenische Kunst and as it became more widely known it made Laibach all the more intriguing. Undoubtedly this association drew in enthusiastic fans alround the world fascinated at the collective approach and the various groups of the NSK were benefitting from the work of each other and gained wider exposure and recognition, if you had a strong interest in one group in the NSK you would soon get to know about the others.
NSK has long since changed and the three main groups are now working on their own projects and have little direct links other than the NSK State but without a doubt the groups continue to benefit from Neue Slowenische Kunst; someone might enquire if Laibach could do a show during an exhibition by Irwin. Unfortunately the NSK ultimately does not function in the way it had done. During the time covered by the book the various groups members would have regular meeting and were much more involved with each other projects and created combined efforts or elements of one group's project would often appear in another and then there was large spectacles such as Baptism.
There was no announcement marking the end of the collective though you do seem to get the retrospective statements that would suggest Neue Slowenische Kunst converting to NSK or the NSK State marked the change but at the time it did not come across as an end to the collective, in fact it was only at the NSK Dublin in 2004 there was some sense that the groups were now operating independently from the NSK. However on reflection and comparison it is clear that it had been operating quite differently. Ivan Novak has stated that the NSK as an art organisation ended in 1995 or 96.
The production of the NSK book was very much a NSK project, utilising the Novi Kolektivizem department led by a professional designer Darko Pokorn and editor of the NSK Book.
The book also features a compilation of the essential texts written by members of the individual groups, interviews, programme texts, poetry, chronology, etc. There are three large sections in the book which specifically covers Laibach, Irwin and the theatre group in its different incarnations. In addition a number of smaller sections for the other departments that were part of the Neue Slowenische Kunst, such as the NK and the Philosophy Dept also at the time they had departments such as the Builders and the Film unit.
At the time it was an unique opportunity to see Laibach's artwork, something that wasn't readily seen until the internet. The book also features interviews, lyrics and poems, revealing that their work extended way beyond their music. There was also a chronology that gave an fascinating insight into Laibach progression into an international music group. Surprisingly there wasn't much in the way of photographs of the Laibach performers, either promotional or in performance possibly reflecting the collective view that the work was more important than the members involved. It's very much more a presentation of their work rather than a biographical account.
Irwin's work was probably seen in depth for the first time by many Laibach fans, revealing many shared elements and inspirations, such as the stag first painted by Tomaz Hostnik who was directly influenced by Edwin Landseer's Monarch of the Glen and of course Irwin also made heavy use of the Malevich cross. The artwork of Irwin's is perfectly captured in the book and there are also texts from interviews.
The theatre group is showcased mainly through photographs capturing the striking visual impact of their performance, including the epic production of Baptism. Once again many shared elements can be seen and their use of Slovene symbols as a result playing a part in reawakening a strong national identity. This section also includes the scripts from the plays along with various statements giving some insight. It also highlights its transformation from Scipion Nasice Sisters Theater to Red Pilot then finally evolving into Noordung in 1990.
Anyone who is interested in the work from the groups that had made up the NSK would find the book fascinating and it absolutely essential for those researching the work of the NSK, capturing the organisation functioning as a collective group during turmoil leading up to the break-up of Yugoslavia. However, since it only covers their work up to 1989 and 1990 therefore it's not a complete picture, also it's very much a presentation of the work of the NSK rather than a book about the organisation so there are no explanations or comments behind the work. You can glean some background details from some of the texts, especially interviews and various other statements such as speeches.
They could quite easily create a second volume covering the period up to 1996 unfortunately this appears unlikely for the time being. This period is particularly significant due to the break of the Yugoslavian Federation and formation of Slovenia which the NSK played a role in, just how much influence is a matter for academic debate. Although the groups now have limited contact with each other they do still have links, mainly through the NSK State, and could maybe one day work on a new book that covers the full period as an art collective organisation from 1984 to 1996.
They have been many other books released concerning the work of the NSK, Irwin in particularly have worked on a number of titles such as 'IRWIN: Retroprincip' and 'NSK Embassy Moscow'. Noordung has also produced a book which I remember leafing through at NSK Dublin 2004 but it did have a price tag of 100 Euros so I didn't buy it. New Collectivism presented their wide ranging portfolio into a large A4 paperback book which was published in in 1999 and the Department of Pure and Applied Philosophy had released 'Reden an die Deutsche Nation' (Speeches to the German Nation). One noteable exception, Laibach have not yet published anything directly, they feature in quite a few books such as the 'Amok Journal' and 'Interrogation Machine' but strangly we are still awaiting for some sort of book directly from them. A biographical account of the band would be fascinating however an official document of their work would be more likely for the time being and fits into Laibach's style; the NSK book does this to some extent but even then it only covers up to a point in 1989 which is now a relatively small period in Laibach's long career.
While the Neue Slowenische Kunst book is highly recommended, it has long been out of print and now often sells at highly inflated prices on the second-hand market.
NSK was founded in 1984 as an organization working in the area between
ideology and art. NSK embraces departments of music, painting, theatre,
philosophy, video, film, architecture, design, etc. This groups are:
LAIBACH, IRWIN, NOORDUNG (former SCIPION NASICE SISTERS THEATRE and
COSMOKINETIC THEATRE "RED PILOT"), DEPARTMENT FOR PURE AND APLLIED
PHILOSOPHY, RETROVISION, BUILDERS, NEW COLLECTIVISM...
The book is a compilation of the essential texts written by members of the
individual groups, interviews, programme texts, poetry, chronology, etc.
The NSK book has 288 pages. It also contains 282 colour and 229 black and
white reproductions. The hardbound book with slipcase, its size is 26 x 18,5 cm.
The original Slovenian book is enclosed with its English
translation in paperback and an NSK Passport application form.