Stephanie Benzaquen

Enrique Ježik project "Suspended Parade"

Through its relation with the theme of the festival - this other display of power that is the “Potemkin village” - the military parade gets problematized in many ways. What is to be sought behind the façade of force? How has this specific  image of power been constructed and transmitted in time and space? Why does it thrill us? Where does the fascination  for such lethal vision come from? How has it been politically, socially, and culturally encoded? How is it staged? Which  kind of narratives do we re-enact when contemplating the parade? How does it influence urban settings? How does it  modify our perception of the public place?

The project of Enrique Ježik, by attempting to “paralyze” for a moment this mobile display of power, provides us with  the opportunity to carefully observe it; reflect in depth the aforementioned issues; deconstruct the mechanisms of  power representation and imagery elaboration; and investigate our own place facing narratives of national identity,  war, and history – that is our responsibility as citizens, carriers of memory, and actors-creators of the public sphere.  

As well, the project of Enrique Ježik questions the impact of artistic practices and discourses. Where actually is the  Potemkin village? Could it be in the artistic endeavour to stop the machine, and bring it to a neutralizing stand still? Is  it in the defying gesture of the flesh and blood David against the metal Goliath? 

The project of Enrique Ježik and the issues it raises are especially meaningful in the regional context of the festival. As  the Balkans have been ravaged by conflicts and massacres during years, as the militarization of society, the destruction of cities and landscapes, and the non-settled accounts still unfold their consequences nowadays, questioning the  perception of military power, its place in national narratives, and the development of civil society is a crucial act. 

In Slovenia, the impact of such project goes even further. In 2006, it is a military parade that has been at the centre  of a bitter dispute concerning the 15th anniversary of the Independence.  Around the end of February 2006, Slovenia’s president Drnovsek, spoke out against a planned parade on the country’s  national day, calling it “inappropriate and unnecessary: “I believe that Slovenia does not need a military parade.  Slovenia is a country that is committed to peace and peaceful solutions of conflicts where ever in the world. I think  military parades are more a thing of the past, when countries exhibited their military power, when they, if I may say,  rattled their weapons and thereby send messages, which were not messages of peace.” 

Shortly thereafter, he was joined by other public personalities in the country. A petition was sent to the government,  demanding the parade by cancelled. Some felt that the timing for a military parade was wrong in light of the fact that  four Slovenian officers had just been sent to Iraq to serve as military advisers.  The government, including then Prime Minister Janša, criticized the fact that Drnovsek expressed his disapproval  to the press first, instead of to the government: “ It would have sufficed if the President had sent a single notice to  whomever in the government, the president of the committee, to me personally, or if he had made a phone call -- and  this disagreement would not have occurred.” Janša said.  In the meantime, Slovenian media (notably the left-leaning magazine Mladina, which spearheaded the anti-parade  movement) republished a statement written by the Prime Minister in 1985, in which he said that the more “backwards  a nation, the larger the celebrations.”  Finally, a referendum was organized and the major part of the population rejected the organization of a military parade for the celebration of Independence.

 Without any provocation, rather by pointing to debates that have stirred up the Slovenian society these past years  and been core issues in the last decade for the civil society in former Yugoslavia, the skilful deconstruction of power  representation, imagery of violence, and artistic gesture proposed by Enrique Ježik sets up the critical distance that is  necessary for the re-appraisal of “national identity” and new forms of solidarity.