Aesthetic coldness and distance, pseudo-bombastic music, elitist hermeticism. The characteristics and elements of Autopsia’s fascinating and troubling works might appear out of time and place in the 21st Century. Are they any more than reminders of distant, foreign nightmares that we can safely forget? In fact, the troubling, ghostly forms in Autopsia’s work bear witness to the constant potential for catastrophe and collapse. Such reminders are ever more needed and ever less welcome within our actually-existing, privatised, technological utopias. If the “20th Century is Dead”, is the 21st Century [Living] Death? What does Autopsia, the most cryptic of industrial art projects, with its origins in London, its formative years in ex-Yugoslavia and more than two decades of work in Prague, contribute to 21st culture?
Thanatopolis is the first book in English to analyse the work of the secretive entity known as Autopsia. Why does such deliberately uncommunicative work matter at this time? The West is shaken by post-factual politics and the link between technical artefacts and technical knowledge is breaking. Knowledge is suspect and blind automation is innocent. Are Autopsia’s frozen visual techno-archetypes now more potent that they were? Perhaps now they are not some quaint, admonitory commentary on Yugoslavia’s terminal hyper-modernism, but also on our own, designed-in, always-already obsolescent culture and its simultaneous attempts to induce and to defeat death. Thanatopolis.
Alexei Monroe is a writer and cultural theorist specialising in industrial culture, the art and culture of former Yugoslavia and electronic music. Author of Interrogation Machine Laibach and NSK (MIT Press, 2005), editor, State of Emergence (Ploettner Verlag, 2011), co-editor, Test Dept Total State Machine (PC Press 2015). Programme Director, First NSK Citizens’ Congress, Organising Committee Member, 2nd NSK State Folk Art Biennale.