Chain D.L.K.: Autopsia presently exists in Prague, in the town where Kafka, Rilke, Mucha and other icons of Monarchy and modernism lived. One might say that Prague is one of the thresholds of modernism. How does Autopsia experience the Prague of modernism?
Autopsia: Autopsia experiences modernism as historicism. Autopsia started as a postmodern project based on starting points which were radical deflections from modernism. Everything that is modernism Autopsia is not. But Autopsia makes use of modernism in order to show that it belongs to history and that it gathers meanings from history which cannot be labeled in terms of historical periods. At the time when Autopsia emerged, the phenomena that marked the distance between modernism and postmodernism could hardly be anticipated. The connection to postmodernism by Autopsia is found in the turn towards oneself, towards one’s own experiences, opposite to lessons learned. One’s own values and one’s own criteria certainly were in conflict with the paradigm of modernity on which leading authorities relied. Autopsia started with doubt in authorities and came across an entirely open realm, which was perceived as a time “after modernity”. That is why Prague became such an important site for situating Autopsia – a place that revealed its forgotten faces alongside with the projects of Autopsia. At that time projects by Autopsia were a hundred percent reality which enabled hybrid conjunctions of different epochs, and thus modernism as well.
Chain D.L.K.: “… Mein Bruder suchet Kronen, ich den Stein der Weisen” – this sentence was ascribed to Rudolph II. During his time in Prague, more precisely in Rudolph’s palace, mystics and alchemists of the Renaissance period were gathering. In the work of Autopsia one can often find allusions to and quotations from alchemical tradition. The atmosphere of mystery is also present. Did Autopsia have Prague mysticism in mind when you chose Prague as a “center” for your activity?
Autopsia: Autopsia proclaimed Prague to be the spiritual capital of the world. Certainly the spirit of Rudolph II, as well as the history he created, belongs to this spirit and centrality. Not only Rudolph II, Charles V is perhaps even more important and interesting to Autopsia, also the Czech baroque – especially baroque music. Rudolph II didn’t create the history of states and peoples, but rather the new European spirit of cosmopolitanism. His spirit gathered knowledge, from antiquity to contemporary times, thus making Prague a place of new epoch, a new center of knowledge. The Prague of that time was a huge research laboratory, which radiated the synergies of many arts. Similarity between the pre-scientific systems of Rudolph’s age with the principles of Autopsia is obvious. However, possibilities for all other similarities end here. Despite allusions and quotations Autopsia is neither concerned with alchemy or mysticism. It simply uses their iconographies in a rather special way. In hybrid conjunctions it connects them with other components which have nothing in common with the practices of the Rudolphine age. “Geistzentrale der Welt” is supposed to be understood as a code for a place in which the identity of the work is built.
Chain D.L.K.: Does Autopsia have a fatherland?
Autopsia: Autopsia does not have a fatherland. It does not have any place or system outside of itself. All social relations in which Autopsia operates might be anywhere in the world. Home for Autopsia is the world. Fatherland is a fictional concept. Autopsia operates in reality, outside “fatherlands”. It can produce a fatherland but cannot belong to it. Fatherland, motherland – these are projections, abstract notions which have nothing to do with homeland-ness. It is only a homeland for the world of individuality, it is not an abstract product. Individual experience of the world cannot be shared with others. Homeland guarantees the certainty of the world prior to awareness of one’s own person. Homeland has the meaning for individuality, and fatherland, or motherland, for collectivity. Autopsia has neither homeland nor place. It is a pure thought about the mortality of the being. What a person can do within the understanding of it’s own mortality is detachment, separateness from the ruling ideas of the world; meaning – it has to be detached from the collective. Only with collectivity does death becomes an idea which turns into the weapon of self-destruction. Only individuality is mortal. The experience of one’s own mortality cannot be shared with others.
Chain D.L.K.: Autopsia originated in one country, Yugoslavia, which – like the Monarchy and the utopia of modernism – fell apart, and today does not exist. What did the ex-Yugoslavian cultural space mean to Autopsia? How does Autopsia look at this part of Europe?
Autopsia: If Katalin Ladik, Balint Szombati, Boris Kovac, art groups K‘D, OHO, NSK, etc., meant something to Autopsia, not in terms of direct influence, but for the sake of presenting one cultural space, these artists could be mentioned.It would be wrong to think that Autopsia “originated in one country”, or state. One might say that the beginning of Autopsia had a cartography that included several countries. It would rather be better to say, several cities. From the very beginning Autopsia belonged to no state system. Its history is a nomadic one. The artists that you mention, with the exception of NSK, might be considered as the last remnants of the avant-garde. Autopsia begins where the avant-garde ends. The “Avant-garde” is today an historical relic which Autopsia deals with as a source of research, but never “belonged” to it. It cannot be said that Autopsia operated within the framework of any kind of cultural space as an historical category. Autopsia passed through different cultural spaces as one passes through images of unexplored regions. If Autopsia came across some hidden “preciousness” during this journey, then those things have become the impulses for the creation of new projects. Autopsia is constantly moving through cultural spaces; thus places of residence are irrelevant. Autopsia has no viewpoints on the political boundaries in Europe. There are no prejudices concerning where and when it will come across the impulses which will start the interests in new projects.
Chain D.L.K.: “Scars of Europa”, a track from one of earlier Autopsia CDs (Death is the Mother of Beauty, ’88-89) can be interpreted as a premonition about the death of Europe. Does this mean that today we live in a post-Europe?
Autopsia: Autopsia does not deal with predictions. It deals with reality, which means – Death. “Scars of Europa” narrates a new spirit of Europe, which is filled with the scars of history. Such an historical component also belongs to the new spirit of Europe. Death is the Mother of Beauty and the presage of the world to come. After the domination of an all-encompassing simplified modernism, the world that could have been different was presaged, the world which, throughout the channels of its networks, will not reproduce the same. It could have been only the world aware of its history, the world of an individual, which was known to such a history. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. The entire project of the new spirit slipped into a globalized network of technological modernism. The only things that remained after particular histories were images, appearances and illusions that were poured into us by means of the media in order to cover the real condition – the flow of money. It turned out almost immediately that there was no project of the new spirit at all. Such a thing is not possible anymore. Man finally stopped thinking of himself/herself as of one individual, as a unique, unrepeatable selfhood. His/her mind became a container of messages.But death again has something to say on the subject, because death is not a mere event in the epoch – terror or genocide, conflict and destruction. At stake here is the epoch itself, death as time, the age of its reign, death from the perspective of a faith grounded in metaphysics, which encompasses the totality of being. Project Death is the Mother of Beauty can be translated into the domain of the political or the cultural, but it is not directed towards the presentation of something real, but towards an understanding of the homelandlessness (‘not-being-at-home; not-being-in-homeland’), which occurs in the catastrophic age of groundless faith. Since the messages cannot be checked anymore, one can only believe in them. Truth has lost its meaning, only belief remains and pure faith without religions and ideologies.
Chain D.L.K.: It is obvious that one of the cultural metaphors of Autopsia is the concept of death. Is it possible that a discourse concerning death can replace its individual experience? Is it not that the discourse, that is, any artistic act or ritual about death, becomes an unsatisfied wish, or even desire, to overcome death, to gain power over death?
Autopsia: It is not a matter of death being dealt with as an object of consciousness. To speak about death in the manner of Autopsia means to speak from the closeness, the proximity of death as mortality, from the closeness of the Being itself. Among all other beings, only humans have consciousness about mortality, because they have the ability to comprehend the concept of time. Time is what tells us that we are mortal. We can do our best trying to gain power over death, we can even work on its eradication – and that’s what we most often do – but we cannot go out of time, beyond time. We cannot be outside of changes, permanent and timeless, as an image of God. And yet, within this dualism of changes and continuity it is as if something is hidden which keeps them together so that thinking can endure such a fate. What puts them together is certainly something that lasts and which is eternal. Although hidden, we somehow participate in the image of God, as its inseparable part. After all, we consider ourselves godly creatures.Autopsia does not speak about death from the standpoint of individual experiences of death, nor are its motives directed towards some substitute. There are substitute concepts only if you think about death as an object. Death is not something that is represented, nor it is representable. We are mortal beings. Mortality cannot be put in front of us and be observed. Our own mortality cannot be shared with anyone else. This feeling cannot be “communicated”. It can only be poetically expressed – it can be spoken of indirectly, by means of a specific language. And this is what Autopsia, in fact. does.
Chain D.L.K.: What kind of means does music represent for Autopsia? Is it an instrument of the manifesto about the mortality of beings?
Autopsia: Music is not a means for Autopsia. Music is neither an instrument nor a programmatic platform. Music is art; Autopsia does not stand for anything outside art. To be in art means to dwell in poetic discourse. There are no manifestos; iconographic messages of Autopsia should not be read directly. Autopsia operates with images as with a vocabulary of recycled cultural products. These images refer to the means of musical composing, but they are not a one to one illustration. The sound and the image are linked only on the level of methodologies but not of meanings.
Chain D.L.K.: In your works one can find various quotations: textual, musical, quotations from fine arts, from film, etc., ranging from high culture to popular culture. Within this collage of quotations, by way of frequent repetitions, quotations become self-quotations. There occurs a processing of cultural waste into a hybridism of signs, which leads to an “original” palimpsest. Does Autopsia accept postmodern ideology of quotationalism, that is, the blasphemy of the authority of the original work? There is no hierarchy in Autopsia, is there?
Autopsia: Correct, there is no hierarchy, no authority. In “Mirrors of Destruction” it is said that our world is founded on the idea of the center, which has the attributes of the source, the beginning, the truth, the ideal form, the essence, the god – the presence which guarantees meaning. Everything that is different from these notions is excluded. What interests Autopsia is exactly that which is “excluded”.Autopsia uses language and its forms just as it uses musical phrases. To operate with representations means to use the metaphorical features of language – like in poetry. Autopsia uses the image in so far as it is the meeting point of those characteristics that can easily turn out to be the forms of mass media. In its visual products it carries out the procedure of a montage of the trivial and the marginal. Autopsia creates images by means of which it nourishes what it destroys. Thus the double-headed process is carried out – on one hand, through thematic and subject matter a relation towards the work is shown, and on the other, through manipulation of the image’s essence, a testimony of death is displayed, which is nothing else but the image itself. Autopsia uses mediatic contents as containers of entire cultural realms, reduced to media patterns.
Chain D.L.K.: It seems that Autopsia’s musical experiment consists of baroque, minimalist, electronic, avant-garde, ambient, pop and other music. In one of your answers you’ve mentioned that baroque is particularly important for you. Baroque is founded on the ideology of harmony. What attracts Autopsia in the art of baroque?
Autopsia: The list of forms of musical expression you have just made is inexhaustible, limited by nothing else than the creative impulse. For Autopsia there is no focusing on just one sector of music, or on choosing one set of musical idioms. Autopsia is not interested in musical forms, but in their spiritual foundations. In baroque music for the first time there appears the work as a “project”. One is supposed to conceive the complex structure of the work which is based on the idea of the spectacle, and which will acquire its standard form in opera. Thus the baroque work is a total authorial project which originates in the symbiosis of music and other visual forms – a project of total spectacularization. In different styles and different cultures harmony is a matter of convention. Harmony in one style and culture is a disharmony in another style and culture. The superficial opinion that the avant-garde is disharmonious is just an opinion and nothing else.
Chain D.L.K.: Autopsia’s work is not only music, but textual and visual art as well. Could we consider the works of Autopsia a verbo-voco-visual meditative objects?
Autopsia: No, works of Autopsia are not verbo-voco-visual projects. Verbo-voco-visual is a notion derived from the arsenal of the late avant-garde. It designates the hybrid of conceptual amalgams within the invention of art practices which at one time had the significance of the “new”. The use of verbal statements, musical compositions, and visual representations is quite conventional for Autopsia. There is no intention to create any kind of synthesis that would be directed towards one particular hybrid product. These three ways of expression are autonomous. What links them is a common spiritual ground. Autopsia deals with music and is concerned with complete control over its own production.
Chain D.L.K.: The latest album of Autopsia, “The Berlin Requiem,” is rather interesting. This project evokes Berthold Brecht’s “Berliner Requiem,” and the inside cover refers perhaps to the Himalayas, that is, the endeavor of human being to overcome his/her limits, to reach the peak of his/her existence, which in the context of Autopsia means – death. Is Autopsia attracted by Brecht’s poetics of quotationalism, the so-called Verfremdungseffekt?
Autopsia: In the context of “The Berlin Requiem”, Brecht’s “Berliner Requiem” might be seen as a quotation in its entirety. In the initial ground of Brecht’s poetics there is a concord with the poetics of Autopsia, otherwise “The Berlin Requiem” wouldn’t have happened at all. However, every similarity ends with this initial connection. Everything that can be heard in the requiem is not a quotation. The use of verbal statements and the creation of compositions do not match. One does not illustrate the other. They are in the relationship of foreboding, of potentiality, of some kind of inclination of one toward the other, on which the possibilities of “expanded” meaning rests. Sound images, photography and the text come from different areas, but in some special way they support each other and make the entire product more complicated.Climbing up the mountain peak is not the striving to reach one’s own peak of existence in the concept of death. Although Autopsia was using the slogan “Our Goal Is Death”, it is not about the representation of death. It is a declaration of the object which is substituted. Climbing to the top points to the effort which man makes in order to explore the unknown. However, this strenuous walk does not lead to some determined goal, and so not to death. Rather, it speaks to the courage needed to endure the solitude present in the world.
Chain D.L.K.: Recently Autopsia issued a small project in which Pasolini and Freud were put together, entitled “Silently The Wolves Are Watching / Porcile”. Is this work an introduction into the conception of new works, which are, at the moment, in the phase of becoming? What are we to expect in these new projects?
Autopsia: The first title comes from psychoanalysis, and the second is the title of Pasolini’s film. The speech at the beginning of the track is from that movie. At www.autopsia.net both titles have direct links to the sources of the inspiration. But it is no accident that they are separated on two sides of vinyl. There is a connection between “Lacanian gaze” and parallel narratives about cannibalism and capitalism. It is a matter of a paradoxical conjunction of completely individual experience, an irreplaceable one – outside of communication, and social order, which is replaceable. It’s permissivity can be displayed by any other form of social construction. When we speak about capitalism, we speak about one of the known forms of totalitarianism. However, at stake here is not the fate of the individual in society, nor is it the criticism of society, which is the usual opinion, but at stake is the unrealizable desire of one to appropriate the other, that is, to eat oneself. Selfhood is substituted with the mere representation of the other. This desire is projected into social relations and becomes a driving force of permissivity. How much such a scenario corresponds to reality, and how much to the interpretation, still remains the open question. Referring to “Lacanian gaze” perhaps helps to explain the connection of the numerous fields available and the equally important issue of “how” we gaze at something. The gazing itself becomes the enigma of the visible. This record is a complete whole. It is not an introduction to some other product, nor is it a preview of what shall happen in the future. In fact, Autopsia goes through a period of interest that is expressed in an exploration of the legacy of the last century. All projects from that period are connected in a certain way, but at the same time are completed entities. One work has never opened the other. A method of repetition and extension of material was used, but always within a framework of a single thematic whole. Projects by Autopsia were not conceived as a series.
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[interviewed by Roland Orcsik] [proofreading by John Gore]