Opening: October 18, 2017 at 8.00 pm
Dates: From October 19, 2017 to February 18, 2018
Curator’s guided tour: October 19 at 11:00 am
Press conference and private preview: October 17, 2017 at 11:00 am
Guest curator: Domenico Quaranta
In 2007, three Slovenian artists joined the conservative Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and officially changed their names to that of the leader of the party, the Prime Minister of Slovenia at the time, Janez Janša. While they renamed themselves for personal reasons, the boundaries between their lives and their art began to blur in numerous and unforeseen ways.
Since then, they have been living their private and public lives, working individually and collectively under the same name, and exploring the philosophical, psychological, political, biopolitical, historical, legal, economic, linguistic, and social implications of the name change; turning their lives into an ongoing performance and their art into a powerful means to question rituals and conventions, and to discuss the status and function of identity-related objects such as signatures, passports, ID cards, credit and debit cards.
Ten years later, this anthological exhibition offers an overview of this story which, although strongly rooted in Slovenia and its recent history, raises some universal questions about identity in the age of biopolitics and about art in the age of information; and casts it into the future, by announcing the registration of the Janez Janša name as a trademark for the next ten years. What’s in a name? How does it relate to ownership, legal status, self-perception and self-representation, profiling, surveillance, copyright and commodification of language, and related topics that define the contemporary condition? What’s an artwork and what are the boundaries that define it in relation to life, institutions and companies?
Co-produced by Moderna galerija (MG+MSUM) and Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, and curated by independent curator Domenico Quaranta, Janez Janša® presents a comprehensive selection of works and projects produced by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša over the last ten years – most of them arising as collateral effects of the name change or other life events related to it. As an action pursued with no explicit artistic or political agenda, the name change sparked a series of consequences, reactions and interpretations that were either political or artistic. From an artistic perspective, the name change was perceived as either a performance or provocation. From a political perspective, it was perceived as either an act of political affiliation or resistance. These interpretations were often reflected in public statements and media stories. From a plain administrative perspective, the name change was seen as a regular procedure that – automatically or upon request – produced the related documents, such as ID cards and passports, birth and marriage certificates, and so on.
Janez Janša® explores this dimension – which the Janšas term “collaterality” – presenting articles, open letters, radio interviews and other documentary materials as well as official and valid legal documents as readymades, a category that Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša embraced and sought to improve upon. They thus introduced the notion of “collateral art” – the individual artefacts produced by institutions and companies in response to their gestures and requests, such as ID cards, membership cards and other documents, presented as artworks while they are still valid documents, as well as the notion of “custom-made readymades” – objects that are customized upon request by certain companies. This has led to a path of research that creates ambiguous artefacts that question the relationship between art and the media, and that between art works and functional objects, comparing different notions of value and exploring post-Fordist means of production.
Other paths of research focus either on the act of signature as a performative gesture, an act of identity affirmation and of legal validation, or on the ways in which a symbolic gesture can be re-encoded and reshaped by the identity performing it. The first is explored in the show by such artworks as the Signatures (2007 – ongoing) series of interventions in public space and the installation Signature (2010); the second is evident in Monument to the National Contemporary Art (Golden Triglav), 2008, or the I ♥ Germany (2013 - ongoing) series, both working on the re-encoding of gestures and popular icons.
As an exhibition, Janez Janša® both diligently enacts and irreverently plays with the nature of a mid-career show, by avoiding a linear narrative, presenting alternative versions of some pieces, and experimenting with forms of display. Furthermore, it explores the act of changing one’s name as one of symbolic death and rebirth, framed as it is by a work that translates into graves the institutional difficulties that occur when changing a name (Life Span, 2017), and another that, by turning the artists’ personal name into a registered trademark, opens up a new range of possibilities (Janez Janša®, 2017).
Janez Janša® is hosted by the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (+MSUM), part of the Moderna galerija, Ljubljana – a museum that, since its foundation in 1947, has resisted existing hegemonic models, advocating instead for a plurality of narratives and the priorities of local spaces that intend to enter into equal dialogues with other spaces using only their own symbolic capital. For more information, please visit http://www.mg-lj.si/en
The exhibition is curated by Domenico Quaranta, a contemporary art critic and curator whose work focuses on the impact of current means of production and dissemination on the arts, and on the ways they respond - syntactically and semantically – to shifts in technology. The author of Beyond New Media Art (2013) and AFK. Texts on Artists 2011–2016 (2016), he curated a number of exhibitions, including Collect the WWWorld (2011–2012) and Cyphoria (2016). For more information, please visit http://domenicoquaranta.com
The exhibition is part of State Machines - Art, Work, and Identity in an Age of Planetary-Scale Computation, a project that investigates the new relationships between states, citizens and the stateless made possible by emerging technologies, focussing on how such technologies impact identity and citizenship, digital labour and finance.
Accompanying programme in October:
The opening of the exhibition is also the closing event of the two-day conference Proper and Improper Names. Identity in the Information Society (Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, 17–18 October 2017), curated by Marco Deseriis and produced by Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art. Featuring lectures and works by Marco Deseriis, Kristin Sue Lucas, Gerald Raunig, Ryan Trecartin, Wu Ming, and Natalie Bookchin, the conference explores modes of intervention that cannot be reduced to individual or collective identities. More information and calendar can be found here.
At 7pm on Sunday, October 22, 2017, at the Kinodvor cinema, there will be a screening of My Name is Janez Janša (Aksioma, 2012), a film that caused an uproar amongst the Slovenian public even before it was released. More information can be found here.
Janez Janša, Janez Janša, Janez Janša
Guest curator: Domenico Quaranta
Produced by: Moderna galerija Ljubljana and Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana
Head of production: Igor Španjol
Producers: Marcela Okretič, Janez Janša
Executive producer: Sonja Grdina
Public relations: Mateja Dimnik, Alja Žorž
Public program: Adela Železnik
Pedagogical program: Lucija Cvjetković
Technical coordination: Tomaž Kučer
Coordination of photography: Sabina Povšič
Bibliography: Teja Merhar
Technical support: Zavod Projekt Atol
Accompanying programme partners: Kino Šiška, Kinodvor, Zavod Maska
This exhibition is realised within the framework of State Machines.
Supported by: the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana
Sponsors: Marmor Hotavlje, Tam-Tam
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Janez Janša® is a trade mark, registered at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on February 17, 2017 under the trade mark number 016384364. Janez Janša® is owned by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša.