Liberation Day chronicles the Slovenian band Laibach’s trip to North Korea, as they plan to take part in the PRK’s most important state holiday, Liberation Day, with a special program of songs from the American film The Sound of Music, their own ‘totalitarian’ hits and covers of Life is Life by Opus, The Final Countdown by Europe and Across the Universe by The Beatles.
Early in 2015, Laibach’s announcement of a concert in North Korea sounded like a joke or even another performance: since the day the band was formed in the 1980s, Laibach have been close to conceptual art. They have also been long-time collaborators with the NSK art collective, whose retrospective survey was shown at Garage in fall 2016.
Totalitarian symbols and rituals are of special interest to Laibach. The band see any art made for the masses as propaganda, and believe that contemporary pop culture is established on the same principles that constitute the aesthetics of totalitarian regimes. Because they addressed those issues, Laibach have on several occasions been accused of fascist propaganda themselves. The band’s latest planned concerts in Russia were cancelled due to the difficult political situation in the country. And yet, suddenly Laibach became the first Western band to get the permission to play in Pyongyang, with Norwegian interdisciplinary artist Morten Traavik negotiating their concert with North Korea’s government. In Liberation Day, Laibach play songs from The Sound of Music in the last totalitarian state, North Korean functionaries are overcoming their fear and suspicion, the audience don’t know how to react and Morten Traavik is shooting it on camera—and this is no joke.
Directors Ugis Olte, Morten Traavik
Latvia, Norway, Slovenia, 2016. 100 minutes.