NSK Territory Prishtina
An IRWIN project at On Top Residency
by Artrit Bytyçi
Slovenian art collective IRWIN and Epifani Institute from Prishtina, Kosovo are announcing the ‘NSK Territory Prishtina’, their joint project at the location of On Top Residency set to launch on July 19, 2022, at 18:00.
On this date, at the location of the On Top Residency, by raising the NSK flag, a small plot of land will be declared an “independent territory” by IRWIN, a practice that follows the group’s previous artistic explorations into issues of the state, its institutions, and their symbols.
The IRWIN was founded in 1983 by artists Dušan Mandič, Miran Mohar, Andrej Savski, Roman Uranjek, and Borut Vogelnik. Moreover, IRWIN are also co-founders of the Neue Slowenische Kunst, a political art collective with works such as NSK State in Time, which explores and challenges the ideas of the sovereign state.
Per IRWIN, the NSK State “does not exist in space but in time,” and any place can become part of it “under certain circumstances and for a certain period of time.” Since NSK State is made up of all the activities of its citizens, and since its citizens are spread throughout the world, it can be rightfully claimed that “NSK is a global state.”
This is exemplified by IRWIN’s various projects such as NSK Embassy Moscow, NSK Passport, NSK Post Office, NSK Guard, including the NSK State Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale. “All these projects have their different conceptual backgrounds and realizations,” say IRWIN “but share one trait: they all take everyday institutions or objects as their points of reference and make them NSK institutions or objects.”
The same goes for this current collaboration with Fatmir Mustafa Karllo’s On Top Residency, which in itself mirrors some aspects of the state. It utilizes an unused public property on the outskirts of Prishtina, specifically a hill in Butoc, along Kavaja Street. The location is marked by white flour — that serves as a sort of a border — transforming the space into an “outdoor” gallery.
One of the reasons why Mustafa-Karllo chose this land for his art initiative is its picturesque location with a great view of Prishtina, especially during sunsets.
“Unfortunately,” says Mustafa-Karllo, “this also makes it a perfect location for the construction of potential luxury apartment buildings or high-end villas. Such a move would destroy and negate the very beautiful nature in the first place.”
“We should constantly work towards raising awareness against the commercialization of public space,” says Mustafa-Karllo. According to him, the construction of these buildings may be inevitable, and “it would cut access to these views and this nature for the majority of the people.” And so, the main purpose of On Top Residency is the “preservation, promotion, and use of public spaces and nature” through artistic and cultural activities.
Appropriating in the name of art turns out to have some benefits for the community. “As per my initial concept,” says Mustafa-Karllo, “this open space would continue functioning as an open gallery, where in the future, various artists with site-specific projects would be invited to create and exhibit works that are related to the On Top Residency’s project.”
The way how IRWIN appropriate existing objects and institutions is similar to the concept of the readymade and could, in effect, be applied to an unlimited number of instances. However, IRWIN are very careful and practice a rigorous selection process — just as is recommended with designating new readymades. “[We decide] on NSK projects only after careful deliberation and not too frequently,” say IRWIN, thus affirming that the ‘NSK Territory Prishtina’ undoubtedly belongs with the series of all other NSK projects.
The NSK flag used in this project has been used since the beginning of the NSK State in Time project back in 1992. But, at the core of this project “is not the NSK flag,” say IRWIN, “but the use of this flag to temporarily incorporate part of Kosovo into the NSK State.”
NSK may not yet have its own financial system, economy, or sports league, but IRWIN say that its citizens can “nonetheless claim that a plot of land on a hill close to Prishtina is, in addition to being in Kosovo, also a part of the NSK State.”