Becoming Collective: Laibach’sDesiring Gothic Machine

Posted by Aspasia Stephanou on June 29, 2008 in Blog tagged with

Becoming Collective: Laibach’s Desiring Gothic Machine:


The Ideological System Behind the Musical Experiments of Slovenia‘s Industrial Band LAIBACH


Once upon a time Ian Curtis’ voice resonated the end of existence in “Disorder” or feelings of alienation and nothingness in “Atrocity Exhibitions”. The sometimes ambiguous use of Swastikas, Nazism and right-wing politics by Joy Division reflected the band’s nihilism and dissatisfaction. A similar existential cry was heard on the airwaves by Lydon: “No Future”. But the times they are a-changin’ a troubadour said and indeed they were changing in the 1980s.

Laibach an industrial band founded in 1980 in Trbovlje, Slovenia took Joy Division’s dissatisfaction with human condition and created a positive ideology by playing with the same totalitarian signs. A controversial collectiva, Laibach gained great popularity among the more intellectual gothic circles around the world. But its music was not its only project. In 1984 Laibach, Irwin (group of painters) and Scipion Nasice Sisters Theatre formed the “Neue  Slowenische Kunst” (New Slovenian Arts). This collective organization aimed at creating provocative artistic experiments and in 1994 would become a new state, with its own passports, embassies, consulates and stamps.


(For more information about NSK see

This formation of a new geographical place is a revolutionary act of subject/collective participation. A new phantasmatic territory marked by progressive ideologies and a place called home for every gothic or alienated being on a quest for the kibbutz of existence.

What is at interest is also the existence within this imaginary state, of the Department of Pure and Applied Philosophy. Laibach, as well as the rest of the artists affiliated with NSK are strongly influenced by far left and far right political ideologies, Nietzschean philosophy and dada experimentation. Slavoj Zizek is among its allies. He has written “Why Laibach and NSK are not Fascists?” and “The Enlightenment in Laibach”. In the following video clip which is part of a film called A Film from Slovenia we can have a glimpse of Laibach’s ideological strategy:

 In Laibach’s 1982 Manifesto called 10 Items of the Covenant, we read:

          LAIBACH is the knowledge of the universality of the moment. It is the revelation

          of the absence of balance between sex and work, between servitude and activity. It

         uses all expressions of history to mark this imbalance. This work is without limit;

         God has one face, the devil infinitely many. LAIBACH is the return of action on

         behalf of the idea. (<>)

 Laibach’s political plan has risen from their experiences in Slovenia. Between “servitude” and “activity”, between communism and democracy, Laibach plays with all ideologies, with their positive and negative aspects in order to force the subject to criticize, to see beyond what is being said or done. Like the Dadaists before them, Laibach’s members are fugitives, exiled from their own countries and art for them becomes the vehicle to reflect on ideology. The NSK brings to my mind Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich during the World War I, an artistic collective that fought against all institutions in order to grasp Life in the folly of the moment. Laibach has often used the photomontages of the Dadaist John Heartfield in its posters and first album. Again here it is evident the political element. The use of the swastika or Hitler by Heartfield and Laibach are manipulated to undermine and criticize, to confuse in order to enlighten.

Alexei Monroe has very clearly stated in Laibach: Made in Yugoslavia? that, “In short , Laibach treated its entire ideological and historical context as a Duchampian “ready-made” with which to “deterritorialize” or “make strange” Yugoslav reality.” (

 Like their playful attitude towards ideology, Laibach has covered songs by other bands rendering them a sinister and ironic quality. The band has declared that, “Pop music is for sheep, and we are wolves disguised as shepherds.”An example of this is Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones:

And the lyrics of Sympathy for the Devil as they have been altered by Laibach:

I was around when Jesus Christ
had his moment of doubt and pain
And I made damn sure that Pilate
washed his hands, and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg,
when I saw it was time for a change
I killed the Czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank, held a General’s rank
When the Blitzkreig raged,
and the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game
I watched with glee while your kings and queens
fought for ten decades, for the God they made
Shouted out "Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all… it was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I lay traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reach Bombay
Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game
Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you is the nature of my game
Just as every cop is a criminal
and all the sinners saints
As heads is tails, just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint!
So if you meet me, have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politics
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste!

Laibach is a provocative act, the evidence that shows and justifies the power, intellectuality, unconventionality, ideological concerns inside the gothic subculture. When the punk generation proclaimed there is "No Future", the post-punk Laibach group says there is future and it lies in questioning everything and constantly desiring everything. The future is collective and open to those who dare become creators!


Further Information on Laibach:

Zizek, Slavoj and Andrew Herscher. “Everything Provokes Fascism/Plečnik avec Laibach.” Assemblage. 33 (1997): 58-75. (


Tiny URL for this post: