Anthony Gardner

Anthony Gardner is Associate Professor in Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Oxford and the author of Politically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art against Democracy (MIT Press).

  • NSK from Kapital to Capital

    NSK from Kapital to Capital

    Neue Slowenische Kunst—an Event of the Final Decade of Yugoslavia

    Zdenka Badovinac, Eda Čufer, and Anthony Gardner

    The generously illustrated, lavishly documented story of NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst), the eastern European art collective present at the last revolution of the twentieth century.

    This book is the generously illustrated, lavishly documented, critically narrated story of one of the most significant art collectives of the late twentieth century.

    In 1984, three groups of artists in post-Tito Yugoslavia—the music and multimedia group Laibach, the visual arts group Irwin, and the theater group Scipion Nasice Sisters Theater—came together to form the Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) art collective.

    Adopting the symbols, codes, appearances, and discourses of fascism, nationalism, state power, socialist-realist, and avant-garde art, and pushing the strategies of overidentification and subversive affirmation to their limits, NSK exposed the common foundations of various regimes, systems, and ideologies, while affirming that “art and totalitarianism are not mutually exclusive.”

    Employing music, video, film, exhibitions, writing, graphic design, architecture, theater, and public relations to probe the aesthetic possibilities of declining socialism and proliferating capitalism, NSK introduced an idiosyncratic version of postmodernism (the Retro-Avant-Garde) into the globalizing cultural sphere.

    Combining primary documents, period artifacts, critical essays, and contextual notes, NSK from Kapital to Capital documents NSK's collective practice during the final decade of Yugoslavia—from the first (and banned) Laibach concert (1980) in a small proletarian mining town in Slovenia to the series of projects launched by individual NSK groups entitled Kapital (1991-92). This illuminating chronicle of NSK's work and its reception is produced in conjunction with the first major museum exhibition devoted to NSK. Designed by Novi Kolektivizem (New Collectivism), the graphic design section of NSK, the cover of each individual copy of the book is printed with a custom detail; no two covers exactly are the same.

    Copublished with Moderna Galerija / Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

    Contributors Eda Čufer, Goran Đorđević, Slavoj Žižek, Marina Gržinić, Rastko Močnik, Marina Gržinić, Lev Kreft, Tomaž Mastnak, Mladen Dolar, Chrissie Iles, Boris Groys, Inke Arns, Alexei Monroe, Catherine Wood, Daniel Ricardo Quiles, Anthony Gardner, Barbara Borčič, Alexei Yurchak, Dejan Kršić, and others

    Exhibition Moderna galerija, Ljubljana: 12 May–17 August 2015 Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven: March–August, 2016Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow: Fall 2016

    • Paperback $49.95 £40.00
  • Politically Unbecoming

    Politically Unbecoming

    Postsocialist Art against Democracy

    Anthony Gardner

    Mapping contemporary artists who reject the aesthetics of democratization (and its neoliberal associations) in order to explore alternative politics and practices.

    From biennials and installations to participatory practices, contemporary art has come to embrace an aesthetic of democratization. Art's capacity for democracy building now defines its contemporary relevance, part of a broader, global glorification of democracy as, it seems, the only legitimate model of politics. Yet numerous artists reject the alignment of art and democracy—in part because democracy has been associated not only with utopian political visions but also with neoliberal incursions and military interventions. It is just this paradox of democracy that Anthony Gardner explores in Politically Unbecoming, examining work from the 1980s to the 2000s by artists who have challenged democracy as the defining political, critical, and aesthetic frame for their work. In doing so, these artists also develop alternative artistic politics and practices that can remap the transformations in art and its politics since the end of the Cold War.

    The artists whose work Gardner examines all spent their formative years in Eastern or Western Europe, developing “postsocialist” practices in the wake of socialism's eclipse by neoliberalism (and inspired by nonconformist art from socialist-era Europe). All of these artists—who include Ilya Kabakov, the art collective NSK, and Thomas Hirschhorn—depend on participation between audience and artwork; yet for them, participation does not exemplify democratization but rather offers critical engagement with certain tropes of democracy.

    These artists, Gardner argues, enact an aesthetic that is “politically unbecoming” in two senses: in its withdrawal from overdetermined political categories of contemporary art; and in its perceived indecency in defying the “propriety” of democracy.

    • Hardcover $29.95 £25.00