By: Andrej Žitnik / Nova24tv
On a recent episode of the news show “24ur Zvečer”, the Minister of Culture, Dr Asta Vrečko, said that recent political developments in the field of culture are an attempt to tarnish the reputation of culture and art and that the cultural sector is not a decadent field, but a field where there is a lot of hard work being done.
It has long been clear that there is a lot of hard work being done in the cultural sphere, especially when it comes to the creative writing of applications for public funding. In the previous mandate, Dr Vasko Simoniti, the then-Minister of Culture, stated that the problem of the Slovenian cultural scene was that many people perceived the Ministry as a Social Work Centre for cultural workers – a kind of social corrective, which it never was. This is a ministry that rewards excellence. On the other hand, it is true that Slovenian artists do work hard and a lot, at least when it comes to certain specific genres that have a common denominator, which is the shock factor.
Let’s take a look at some examples where Slovenian artists have been caught working “hard.”
And let’s start with the most topical subject of the moment – the infamous Fotopub, which is run by Dušan Smodej, the king of Slovenian porn-bizarreness, who wants to communicate something so profound in his art that it simply cannot be expressed without underage nudity. We are, of course, talking about the art event where young women were being undressed in what seemed to be a forcible manner. One Twitter user commented that to better understand the artist’s vision, one should take a bit of GHB (the common date-rape drug) before watching the clip.
Another interesting clip has recently surfaced online – the first ever footage of Smodej’s friend experiencing an artistic “catharsis.” Namely, the clip shows the latter trying out Smodej’s fetishist tools and gadgets. Another example of hard work.
The famous “Breathe” (“Dihaj”) installation was also created at the Fotopub. This was a performance where a group of naked women stood in the shop window of Fotopub with bags over their heads. One can only imagine how hard the models must have worked.
Let’s also dwell a little on the past artistic achievements of the Slovenian cultural avant-garde. Who could forget Maja Smrekar, who received a prize for a three-month project in which she breastfed her dog and even tried to impregnate herself with dog cells. This not only got her a lot of press coverage in the Slovenian media but her hard work was also covered by the world’s media. She titled her project “K-9_typology” (“K-9_tipologija”). During this three-month period, she tricked her body into producing milk by systematically pumping, and she then fed this milk to her puppy Ada. In doing so, she was supposedly exploring aspects of the “social and ideological instrumentalisation of the female body and breastfeeding.” The art judges considered this project “a poetic masterpiece that raises post-humanist dilemmas and challenges.” And we say: “Hard work should be paid!”
That same year, the work of another recipient of the Prešeren Award caused quite a stir in public – we are, of course, talking about Simona Semenič and the photo of her pregnant belly with a cut-up Slovenian flag, in which she made a hole for her belly. Slovenian left-wing scene is, of course, thrilled the moment it sees a torn Slovenian flag or a burning American flag. Almost as much as when they see an immaculate flag of Yugoslavia. Simona deserved the award. This was hard work. Especially for the scissors.
And let us also remind you of the work of the artist and theatre actor Rok Kravanja. He is known for being so dedicated to his role that he transformed himself into the character in his private life. Namely, he played a male prostitute and then also played a male prostitute in his private life – and (according to his own confession), he earned a good living doing it. The only question is how much he earned exactly, because the hard-working artist is also on the list of those self-employed cultural workers whose contributions are paid by the state because of their excellence, and the cut-off for how much he can earn is 20,000 euros. Perhaps he was just too cheap? While we can admire the actor’s commitment to the role, we cannot admire his financial commitment to the project. Namely, Mr Kravanja had asked the Ministry of Culture to reimburse him for the cost of the HPV treatment that his hard work could have quickly produced. The Ministry did not respond to our question of whether he also asked them to pay for lubricant and condoms.
Incidentally, Kravanja is also known for dressing up in our national costume together with Dragan Petrović (another “collaborator” from the taxpayer-pays-for-you group of sole entrepreneurs). Together, they stood up against Simoniti’s tyrannical regime in front of the Ministry of Culture and elsewhere on the streets of Ljubljana. It is not known whether this happened because Kravanja had to finance his HPV treatment himself.
But it should also be reminded who were the first artists to invent shock therapy as a form of hard artistic work in Slovenia. Namely, it was the band Strelnikov, with the cover of their album Bitchcraft, which depicted the Holy Virgin Mary holding a rat in her arms instead of the Son of God. However, the hard-working Celje rockers ran out of courage to ever provoke another Abrahamic religion – say, Islam – in a similar way.
We should also mention another pioneer of shock culture, Marko Brecelj, who passed away this year. In his proposal to award Brecelj the Prešeren Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019, which he then did not receive, the proposer, Peter Tomaž Dobrila, wrote, among other things: “The mastermind and the supporting performer, by presenting the soft-terrorist actions, wants to entertainingly appeal to all generations to dismantle in their own environments the suffocating dominance of correct behaviour and expression, with which the System protects its dominance and conceals the raw core of its own destructive instinct.” What did these “soft-terrorist” actions look like?
In 2002, for example, an American battleship was docked in Koper and offered its voluntary services to the regional Red Cross centre. This is a traditional gesture of affection and, at the same time, a practical form of assistance, which is what is usually done by all such guests when they visit the port. The Red Cross deployed 22 Marines to several work sites in and around Koper. They also offered some help to the head of the Koper Youth Cultural Centre, Marko Brecelj, who asked for help painting a school. But instead of painting, the first man of the Youth Cultural Centre used World Theatre Day as a kind of show of opposition to US policy. Instead of bringing the five Marines to a school near Koper, he took them to his centre, where he addressed them with the following speech:
“I invite you to let us capture you because we are the soft terrorist group. While we are grateful that you are willing to work with us, we cannot accept your help because we do not agree with the policy of the US military leadership.” The then-Mayor of Koper, Mr Pucer, criticised such hard work, as he was clearly not a connoisseur of art, by saying: “To ask someone for help and they are willing to offer it, and then this becomes the subject of manipulation, is an incomprehensible and reprehensible act that does not reflect the attitude of the majority of inhabitants of the municipality of Koper.
So, as you can see, the respectable Minister Dr Asta Vrečko is right. The Slovenian cultural scene is working hard. Factory workers, farmers, those who pick fruit, garbage collectors and bricklayers can all sleep soundly – half of their wage that is allocated to Metelkova 6 and its friends is fairly distributed among the top artists, who use these funds to produce not only added value but also catharsis, which is priceless.