This dissertation investigates contemporary artistic practices in the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia. Based on almost three years of ethnographic research it focuses on the ways in which local artistic productions worked to convey vibrantly, and occasionally viscerally, recent historical events in that country that were otherwise rarely invoked in daily life. Of specific interest were the ways in which artists narrated in their work historical or geopolitical circumstance more horrific than those actually, or previously, existing. Moreover, the further Slovenia distanced itself from its Yugoslav past the more contemporary artworks seemed to increase both in their brutality and in their emphasis on social isolation. One question that motivated this investigation was why there was such a contrast between the "as if horrors" in the realm of art and the copasetic and easily functional qualities of daily life in contemporary Slovenia.
One answer to this question was provided by a local reliance on a creative method that addressed social and political changes wrought by circumstances beyond Slovene's control (communism's collapse, Yugoslavia's implosion, EU expansion etc.) in art by folding, or integrating, these contexts into persons. More specifically, artists frequently brought historical and situational references to bear on the body as a means not only of personalizing historical exigencies, but also of questioning the limits of that body's flesh, civilized instincts, normality, integrity, adaptability and, at the most essential level, humanity. Such projects both worked to explicitly recapitulate recent history, creating what Slovenes themselves termed "a positive condition of healing," and were productive of a contemporary (i.e. post-socialist, post-Yugoslav, newly independent, newly EU-integrated) Slovene cultural self-understanding that did not, for the most part, rely upon narratives of wholeness or national exceptionalism.
The radicalism of Slovene contemporary artworks cannot, however, be understood without also taking into account the larger social context of these works, a context notably characterized by acute social sanctions for deviations from the norm. This dissertation, thus, examines both sides of the social coin—interrogating how the practices necessary for the preservation of the norms and forms of social life were coupled with and productive of an artistic extremism that is arguably unparalleled within Europe.