Reviews PerformanceReviews Published 4 May 2012

Laibach: Monumental Retro- avant-garde

Tate Modern ⋄ 14th April 2012

Radical over-identification, sort of.

Andrew Haydon

The third phase of the advertised programme was playing live their contribution to the soundtrack of the forthcoming Finnish sci-fi romp (I’m guessing romp) Iron Sky. I’ll stick my neck out here and say that I reckon B-Maschine is probably the best *original* song Laibach have written, although it sells itself short by not using its awesome chorus more than once (there’s a version on YouTube that repeats said chorus over and over until you’re infested with ohrwurms). But, yes. B-Maschine (my own phone-cam video of the performance is on YouTube here – terrible sound quality, not a patch on the live experience) is like being injected with liquid awesome until the hairs on the back of your neck bristle.

After that, and A.N. Other song off of Iron Sky, even more surprisingly, the band actually bang through a Greatest Hits package: Leben Heißt Leben, Geburt Einer Nation, etc.. I believe there’s a “Laibach – Greatest Hits” album coming out, and this concert was recorded to be released as a double CD, so I guess this is partly dictated by market forces. Even so, it’s a surprise to see a band usually so defined by their unimpeachable integrity behaving like their own spotless tribute band.

That said it is all of course hugely enjoyable. And yes, I think there’s still plenty of irony at play here, even if in this instance the subjects about which Laibach are now most mordant are themselves rock history, while the collapse on which their attention is now focused is that of the record industry rather than the Berlin Wall or former-Yugoslavia.

If you know the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern – previously home to Louise Bourgeois’s Giant Spider, Anish Kapoor’s Marsayas and Olaf Eliassor’s gorgeous Weather Project – it basically puts the stage just before that half-way platform, placing the audience on the polished concrete sloping floor facing the band. Aside from the fact that the band is lower than half of their audience, it makes for a good view from pretty much anywhere. However more use could have been made of the already totalitarian-looking dimensions of the Turbine Hall- something the band could have also embodied better if they’d tried to look less like an ageing rock group. After all, what is Tate Modern’s giganticism actually trying to say? In many ways, it’s one of the most curious spaces the art world has ever conjured.

I’ll save my thoughts on what it all means for an upcoming essay on the NSK symposium; the interim conclusion- if this is art, then it totally rocked, and if it was *merely* rock, then it asked a good deal more of its audience than most popular music.

You can also read Bojana Jankovic’s review of Laibach at Tate Modern here.


Andrew Haydon

Andrew Haydon was a freelance theatre critic (FT, Guardian, Time Out, etc.). He was also the editor of the CultureWars theatre section between 2000-2010, where he discovered exciting new theatre thinkers, including Andy Field, Matt Trueman and Miriam Gillinson. Then he went to Berlin for a while. Now he seems to be back for a bit. His blog here:

Laibach: Monumental Retro- avant-garde Show Info




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