Dragan Zivadinov

A number of performance artists have risked their lives for the sake of a performance, but how many would deliberately end their lives for one? Dragan Zivadinov would – at least he has plans to at the moment. On April 20, 1995, he debuted his “cosmicist” performance “One Against Ten Million, One Against One, Noordung,” which was reprised in 2005, and is set to reprise every ten years until 2045. As members of the performance team (8 males and 8 females) age and eventually pass on, they will be replaced by a replica representing themselves, with a melody or rhythm replacing the words she or he would have spoken, respectively. After that final performance, Dragan will fly into space with all of the replicas and release them into the cosmos, placing them at sixteen points around the earth. And then, on May 1, 2045, he will die.

Dragan is one of the founding members of Neue Slovenische Kunst, and was most notably part of its theatrical “branch,” as he was founder of the Scipion Nasice Sisters Theatre, which later became Red Pilot, and later Noordung Cosmokinetic Cabinet, which is in fact named after Slovene space scientist Herman Potocnik Noordung. Scipion Nasice was pioneering in its theatrical productions in the 1980s. For example, in The Marija Nablocka Retro-Garde Happening (1985), the audience sat beneath the stage, with their heads popping up above it, through holes cut into the floor. The aim was to completely immerse the audience in the production, to put them in a position where they can feel and smell the actors. By literally placing the viewer in the performance, the space between performer and viewer is eliminated, or at least blurred to its furthest extreme.

Eliminating boundaries is precisely what Dragan intends to do with Noordung Cosmokinetic Cabinet. In 1999, he produced Biomechanics Noordung, which was the first  theater production in zero gravity. The performance lasted one minute, and took place in a Russian cosmonaut training aircraft, at an altitude of 6,600 meters.

Dragan told me that what he is trying to create is Suprematist theater. In zero gravity, there is no orientation – no up or down, left or right. Objects (and figures) simply exist. In many ways, this production has realized Malevich’s dreams of cities in space, and converts his two-dimensional canvases, with shapes and figures floating in the white space of infinity, into a live, time-based experience.

It is interesting to witness the strong connections that Slovenian artists have with Russia. Dragan told me that Ljubljana is “the last metro stop from Moscow,” and he is not the only artist I met with strong links to the former seat of the Soviet Union that Tito so abruptly broke with. In 1992, NSK set up an Embassy in Moscow, and Malevich has continuously been reproduced by IRWIN, and also used by Laibach in their visual work. Dragan has always been interested in the Russian avant-garde and the avant-garde in general, and was even involved in the reconstruction of the Trieste Constructivist Cabinet in the Moderna Galerija – a constructivist room originally designed by Slovenian avant-garde artists in 1927, in an attempt to overcome gravity. Not only did Dragan help to recreate this visionary space, but he actualized it by bringing his theatre production into outer space.