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Interview: Janez Janša about Name Readymade


In 2007, three Slovenian artists joined the conservative Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and officially changed their names to that of the leader of the party, the Prime Minister of Slovenia at the time, Janez Janša. The boundaries between their lives and their art began to blur in numerous and unforeseen ways. They turned their lives into an ongoing performance and their art into a powerful means to question rituals and conventions, and to discuss the status and function of identity-related objects such as signatures, passports, and credit cards. One of the artists, Janez Janša, will bring a lecture-performance about name change to SPRING: NAME – Readymade.

How did you start your career in performing arts?

By formation I am a theatre director. I studied in Ljubljana, and also in Antwerp. My studies were pretty much related with writing a book about Jan Fabre (an internationally renowned visual artist, theatre maker and author from Belgium [red.]), which I published in 93’. Today we can call this book Early works of Jan Fabre, but back then I was carefully studying his performing arts works. My interest in art and theory were always crossing each other. I also studied Sociology, so there is a triangle of interest I would say. On one side art, mostly performing arts and conceptual art. On the other side theory and conceptual thinking. And on the third side social engagement.

You have changed your name to that of the former Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša. What was your reason for this?

The reasons are personal. I can also give an argument from a legal perspective, because in Slovenia the law that regulates naming’s, names and name changes doesn’t require to state reasons for name change. By this the law the law makers themselves understand that name change is something very personal.

What is your relationship with the other two Slovenian artists who also changed their names into Janez Janša?

We have been working together for 11 years already. The work that we develop is mostly related to questions of name, branding, personalization, and there is a body of work that we created that was initiated by name change. Here I can also talk about personalized documents. The difference between the way of production in the post Fordism and Fordism, is that in the post Fordism there is this feature of personalization or individualization of a mass product. Recently, there are many companies that are offering personalization for their mass products (for example the Nutella jars with your own name). This is what we used for a work, we made an installation called 350 Janez Janša bottles. The important thing is that these are not fake products, but personalized. This means that the same product actually contains your personal name.

What is interesting, is that we perceive personalization as a recent practice, but when you take your passport or ID, they are one of the most early personalized mass products. All documents in one country look the same, but they are personalized. So this is also something we are interested in, to see where the logic of institutions, being state, public or private, actually coincide and operate in a singular way.

What impact did changing your name have on your life?

Not much! When you change your name, you basically realize your name belongs more to other people than yourself. First of all, it is something that is imprinted on you, although we call it personal. But what is actually personal about it? It’s actually quite violent to be forced to carry something that is so important in your social life, and on the other hand to not have much to do with the decision. So your name is used much more by other people, and when you change it, it is other people who have to get used to it.

What is the story behind NAME – Readymade?

The story shows different aspects of name change. Name change itself is quite a complex and interesting operation where you learn many things. You have to reinvent your signature, something that you have been developing for years. Then you have the question of how to report this, how to inform other people. The lecture-performance NAME – Readymade is basically a narrative about this. This specificity and complexity gives not only information and insight into our name change, but also triggers many questions about each one of us and our relation to our personal names.

What influence would you like to have on the audience?

Usually, there are many questions and I don’t think it will be much different during SPRING. For example, one of the frequently returning questions is about who are the other people who have the same name as you. How do you relate to them? Would you like to know them? Where are they? And so on.

What is your biggest inspiration?

This really depends, I do a lot of research for different projects. Right now I’m working on a new theatre piece that concerns hate speech, developed in online commentaries with a specific focus on art and contemporary art. It’s a reaction or dedication to two female artists, who had to experience enormous vulgarity when they are being attacked online. This tells you that art is not as marginal as we think. Art is relevant, it can disturb people, and it can also give people many things to think about.

• NAME – Readymade can be seen on May 21st at Stadsschouwburg Utrecht. Click here for tickets!


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