Michael Benson, an American living half the time in Ljubljana, directed the better than very well-made art documentary Predictions of Fire, which was produced by TV Slovenia. Therefore screenings of the film in the avant-garde programme “Mind the Gap” in Da Unie and in the Dutch Film museum should be followed quickly by public television broadcast.
In a very clear fashion the film, which is about the rock-group Laibach, art group Irwin, theater group Noordung and their collaboration as NSK, exposes the ideological mechanisms that sank the former Yugoslavia, in only a few years, into nationalist rhetoric, ethnic hatred and mass manipulation. Laibach, the original German name for the Slovenian capital but originating in the mining town of Trbovlje, uses the musical, verbal and visual idioms of totalitarianism. Members of the group express themselves solely in phrases borrowed from fascism, national-socialism and communism. Their lack of irony often leads to misunderstandings. Although the film shows the enthusiastic attention of two young extreme right viewers at a concert in Athens, Benson also demonstates convincingly that it is precisely the deadly serious gravity of NSK which makes it impossible to ignore their message. Irony is often a weapon of the rulers in post-modern society. The Slovenians quickly realized that in Yugoslavia denial of a fascist heritage (after all, it was defeated by the Partisans, according to Titoist ideology, and therefore was non-existent) could very easily lead to the survival of nationalist ranting. Predictions of Fire contains a 1989 performance of Laibach in Belgrade which anticipates Greater Serbian propaganda, interlarded with German-language quotes from Hitler and ending with Chamberlain’s historic words, from 1938, that we would see “peace in our time.”
Archival shots in the documentary of Slovenian collaborators in World War II, Communist parades with pedal-cars and floats, and a visit by Marshal Tito to snow-covered Trbovlje make clear that NSK’s body of thought is perfectly suited to film-collage. The viewer also understands, again, the attraction of totalitarian image-culture, which forms an unspoken component of NSK’s motivation. Or is that the background of the NSK slogan that art shouldn’t be subordinated to politics, but politics to art?
– Hans Beerekamp, NRC Handelsblad (Holland), Spring 1996