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Slovenian Arts and Culture



In modern times, the earliest signs of the Slovenian spirit have surfaced in the field of culture. Ever since the poetry of France Prešeren, culture has formed the heart of our national being. Urban culture has developed in Slovenia over the last two centuries, which has also seen the gradual evolution of fundamental institutions such as the National Museum, and the Slovenian Philharmonic.

If today we were to put a Slovene crew into a space capsule to take the top-class products of cultural, artistic and intellectual creation to distant planets, there would at least be no doubt about who should be the pilot: the only person - after the late inventor Herman Potočnik Noordung (according to whose sketches Clarke and Kubrick designed the dancing spaceships in 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the American astronaut of Slovene descent, Ronald Sega - who literally launched Slovenes into the field of zero gravitation is Dragan Živadinov, the conceptual father of the theatrical third of the Neue Slowenische Kunst movement.

Together with the band Laibach and the painting quintet Irwin, it was the Scipion Nasice Sisters Theatre (later called Red Pilot, now Noordung) of Dragan Živadinov in the 1980s and 1990s that was "tearing down the walls", shattering stereotypes of the usual conception of Eastern and Western Europe, and dealing with the heritage of European totalitarian regimes. All three groups today present Slovenia on sold-out world tours, large art retrospectives of the 20th century - and in space.

If we tried to divide art by departments in this capsule, we would certainly find on the shelves of its library the novel Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, as this is the most translated original Slovene work of fiction, a fascinating romanesque study of religious fanaticism. Among modern authors, an exceptional place goes to the master of intimate, autobiographical, almost diary-like prose, Lojze Kovačič (Reality, Newcomers), our fellow countryman from Trieste, Boris Pahor, and the writer and playwright Drago Jančar (The Great Brilliant Waltz, Northern Lights); accompanied by poets Tomaž Šalamun, Dane Zajc, Uroš Zupan and Aleš Debeljak.

Theatre people would be the most tightly packed in this capsule, as Slovene theatre ranges from the most renowned national theatre, The Slovene National Theatre SNG Drama Ljubljana (with directors such as Mile Korun, Dušan Jovanovič and Meta Hočevar) through the provocative productions of the Slovene Youth Theatre (Vito Taufer, Matjaž Berger), to the production of theatrical spectacles (Tomaž Pandur) and dance theatre (the En-Knap dance company by Iztok Kovač), which meet with a wide response.

Filmmakers made the 1990s their era: Jan Cvitkovič was awarded the Golden Lion of the Future at the Venice Film Festival (Bread and Milk), Branko Djurić, as an actor, boasts an Oscar for the film No Man's Land (Best Foreign Language Film) and a nomination for the European Film Award (Best Actor) in 2001, and as a director can pride himself on the greatest blockbuster of recent years, an incisive social comedy Kajmak in marmelada (Heavy Cream and Marmalade). The capsule could also contain DVDs of the films Idle Running by Janez Burger, Express, Express by Igor Šterk, Spare Parts by Damjan Kozole, and Vertigo Bird by Sašo Podgoršek.

In the exhibition hall - under the honourable auspices of the Venetian Parisian Zoran Mušič - paintings by Metka Kraševec, Gabrijel Stupica and Emerik Bernard would flirt with the installations by Marjetica Potrč and Žiga Kariž, while sculptures by Lujo Vodopivec and Mirsad Begič would do the same with photographs by Stojan Kerbler and Tomaž Gregorič.

And what musical depths would resound within the capsule? It is not impossible that in a composition specially designed for the occasion by Vinko Globokar, we would hear the mezzo-soprano of Marjana Lipovšek, the clarinet of Mate Bekavec, the piano of Dubravka Tomšič Srebotnjak and the flute of Irena Grafenauer. The conductor Marko Letonja would be responsible for trying to find harmoniousness among them.

The capsule might also house an artefact by the famous architect of the first half of the 20th century, Jože Plečnik, while the original architectural solutions would bear the signature of the Viennese architect of Slovene origin, Boris Podrecca.

It is almost certain that the capsule would be incorporated into an inter-media project by Marko Peljhan, while Igor Štromajer would create a complex work of art about it on the world wide web; and on the Earth Matej Andraž Vogrinčič would flirt with it by placing it into an ambient setting.

The activities of the whole team would almost certainly have to be theoretically reflected upon: a philosopher, Dr Slavoj Žižek, two art analysts, Dr Jure Mikuž and Andrej Medved, a curator, Zdenka Badovinac, and two theorists of the new media, Dr Janez Strehovec and Dr Marina Gržinič, would be able to sovereignly discuss the contents of the capsule with the most lucid minds of the 21st century.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the capsule, rather than waltzing through the blue skies of the universe, would dance in the rhythm of the best-selling Slovene tune of all times, the polka Na golici (known in Europe as Trompetenecho) by the "folk" band, The Avsenik Brothers Ensemble.

Slovenia celebrated some important cultural anniversaries in the recent years: