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Critique of Democracy out of Love

Will September 27 soon be a public holiday? Milan Mijalkovic, for one, hopes so – he is devoting a celebration and a new book to this form of government.

At the age of seven, Milan Mijalkovic had to slaughter a young pig in the bathtub. “That poor animal,” he says today. “But I can understand my grandfather’s idea and concerns.” It was a sacrificial offering after the child’s successful operation, the Macedonian artist explains as he quickly drinks his espresso in “Salzamt”. His grandfather, who was strictly against religion, wanted to express his gratitude with the ritual, to have a celebration.

“Because celebrations are the only way to relate important things – it has always been like that,” says Mijalkovic. All of the artist’s happenings are designed as parties. One of them will take place on Friday, which he is calling “Let’s celebrate 30000 years of democracy! Hurrah, Hurrah….” What exactly will take place there, he doesn’t want to say yet. “But it’s going to be amazing, a big party.” There will be lots of food and conversation, with socia
l workers and philosophers among the invited guests.

Jubilee or prediction of the future

Interested parties were invited to send their ideas to the artist beforehand. Some of these people have been invited, but otherwise the event is not open to the public. “Unfortunately, we only have room for 80 people.” That is why Mijalkovic is now calling on people to celebrate their own democracy parties on this day. “From now on, September 27 is the holiday commemorating the thousands-year-old celebrations of democracy,” says the artist. 30000 years ago was when the Neanderthals became extinct – why did Mijalkovic choose this date? “I chose a number that sounded good to me,” he says. “This is free from the future and the past.” It could be a jubilee, but it could just as well be a prediction of the future.

In his new book, Allumfassende Zufriedenheit: Über das Apolitische(Complete Satsifaction: On the Apolitical), which will be presented at the celebration, you can read Mijalkovic’s thoughts on democracy. His main interest is the concept itself. “Some want to protect democracy and accuse the others of wanting to do away with it,” says Mijalkovic. “But no one is really dealing with what it is about, that is, complete satisfaction.” This is not possible in a democracy which is based on dispute.

Opening speech - Philipp Konzett (english translation available in settings)

For the artist, it is a matter of a sober critique of this form of government. “Not out of hate, but out of love.” That the date of the celebration is so close to election day is just a coincidence. “That’s how the organization worked out. But in the end, nothing is by accident.” Mijalkovic’s primary interest is not the political, but the apolitical. “In other words, that which is not talked about in politics.” For instance, last year, under the pseudonym Milan Mijalkovic von Makedonien, he had a mobile drinking fountain in the shape of a breast driven up to the Arbeiterstrich (gathering point for undocumented workers seeking work) to draw attention to the precarious situation of those dependent upon it.

It is important to him that his pseudonym refers to his roots: “I want to show that I’m a foreigner – when someone speaks, you should know with which cultural background,” he says. Mijalkovic was born in Macedonia, came to Austria when he was 18 to study architecture, and today teaches architecture himself. He advises his students to overestimate themselves in their art. “Then the worst that can happen is that you have overestimated yourself. And you can learn a lot from this kind of overestimation,” says the artist. “Some say this is egomaniacal, but to me, it’s more of a leap into self-criticism.”

Mijalkovic found his way to art happenings himself shortly after he graduated, when he got his first commission. “I realized the responsibility I had – the building would remain standing for generations.” Disasters cannot be planned. “Therefore, I first had to accept responsibility for all the natural disasters of the last 2000 years,” says Mijalkovic. He documented these meticulously, held the event publicly in 2011, and began to sell the responsibility, for instance, for an earthquake in Japan, to art lovers.

The sixty-four thousand dollar question

“Afterwards, I couldn’t just go back to the everyday routine,” explains Mijalkovic. Thus, he got interested in topics such as nature, belief, and now democracy. Whether he himself still believes in democracy? A crucial question: “It’s as if you were asking me if I believe in God,” says Mijalkovic. “But I don’t want to exclude anyone or anything – belief is important in order to be able to trust.”

Die Presse
Text: Eva Walisch
Photo: Darko Hristov
Video: Andi Winter
Opening speech: Philipp Konzett
English translation: Mark Miscovich

Copyright: Milan Mijalkovic, 2020