In late July 2010, Borut Vogelnik and Miran Mohar (two members of the IRWIN group and representatives of the NSK State in Time) and myself (curator, artistic director of Hartware MedienKunstVerein [HMKV], and diplomat of the NSK State in Time) set out on a trip to Lagos, Nigeria. Invited by the Centre of Contemporary Art (CCA) Lagos, and supported by the Goethe-Institute, we travelled to West Africa for the first time. Our reasons were diplomatic.
For some time the NSK Država v času (NSK State in Time), a state without territory founded in 1991 as an artistic response to the independence of Slovenia and to the subsequent war(s) in the former Yugoslavia, had been receiving a substantial number of requests for citizenship, especially from Nigeria. In 2006–7 the requests came in the form of e-mails and telephone calls to individual representatives and diplomats of the NSK State in Time, and to representatives of the Republic of Slovenia. This produced a general feeling of panic among us. What was going on? Why were Nigerian citizens suddenly so desperate to get NSK passports—and even to actually use them for travel? Was it possible that the Nigerian applicants took the concept of the NSK State in Time more seriously than its founders, i.e., that they “overidentified” with it—an artistic/political strategy developed to perfection by Laibach/NSK in 1980s Yugoslavia? What if the Nigerians who already possessed an NSK passport took the promise of the passport seriously and really started travelling with it? What if they got into serious trouble at the border, possibly leading to arrest? Border authorities would treat the NSK passport as either a fake document or an authentic document (i.e., a real passport). Either way, using it might be considered a criminal act, in the first case because forged documents are illegal and in the second because carrying two passports could, at times, create problems for Nigerian citizens.
Noticing the rising number of requests from Nigeria after 2006, the Republic of Slovenia urged the artists to post information on the NSK website saying that “NSK citizenship does not equal Slovenian citizenship” and that an “NSK passport does not allow its holder to enter the Schengen zone.” However, posting this information did not remedy the situation. The demand for NSK passports kept rising.
In April 2009, HMKV, located in Dortmund, Germany, participated in an exchange program organized by the Goethe-Institute called Cultural Managers from Africa in Cultural Institutions in Germany. For two weeks Hansi Loren Momodu, curatorial assistant at CCA Lagos, was a guest at HMKV’s offices, observing the practical work of operating a German Kunstverein, especially in the area of media-based artistic practices. The Goethe-Institute has always been keen on follow-up projects (a kind of sustainability!) so at the end of Hansi’s stay we thought about possibilities for future cooperation. I said that, unfortunately, I had no links to Nigeria or to any other African country. But as soon as I said this, I realized it wasn’t true. There was indeed something that connected me to Nigeria—if only indirectly.
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