All That Power Melts Into Noise is a performative installation Cibic developed for the Museum of Contemporary Art Ljubljana. The project centres on the artist’s ongoing investigation into the idea of political gifts of culture, exploring their role within national and political structures during moments of European crisis in the 20th century. The historical case studies the artist draws on speak directly to the present moment, in which culture has become a battleground for the forces of populism in their systematic attack on critical thought, bringing once again to the fore the complex relationship between culture and the state.
The protagonists in this exhibition are a series of what Cibic calls “historical ready-mades”: cultural forms that were used as political devices during key post-traumatic moments in 20th-century European history. Rather than commissions, each of these examples was a gift – an offering made by the power-brokers right at the top of the political food chain, with the aim of preventing conflict and nurturing intra- and international cohesion.
This performative installation is drawn from unrealised musical compositions donated in the 1930s mostly by amateur and semi-professional composers to the Palais des Nations in Geneva, an architecture that was to frame and celebrate the then newly founded League of Nations – the first attempt at trans-nationalism on European ground. These compositions were made in honour to the alliance that was to stop further national conflicts – an aim it failed miserably at. Here, on the occasion of the exhibition’s opening, these compositions will be performed for the first time, by a pair of percussionists in a looped rhythm exchange of anthems and marches: the only two forms of music donated – and simultaneously the two forms most integral to the nation state: to its formation and its dissolution. The snare drums are adorned with paintings of proposed designs for the League of Nations’ flag, another series of donations by international semi-professional and amateur artists. No official flag was ever adopted, due to fears that a single emblem would stir nationalist sentiment within this major transnational project.