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Renaming and Performative Reconstructions: The Uncanny Multiplication of Janez Janša

  • S. E. WILMER

This article considers the uncanny action by three Slovenian artists in 2007 to rename themselves Janez Janša, the name of the right-wing prime minister of Slovenia. It assesses specific performances by the artists, including the Slovene National Theatre, a postdramatic verbatim piece about a Roma family evicted from their homes by Janša's government in response to the mob action of Slovenian villagers. It also interrogates their performance event for the Transmediale Festival at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin in 2008, first banned and then reinstated by the festival organizers, where they created a virtual signature of their new name on the memorial. Theoretically, the importance of naming and renaming as practised by the artists is examined in relation to concepts of subversive affirmation, the author-function in society and postdramatic theatre.

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1 Rok Vevar, ‘The More of Us There Are, the Faster We'll Reach Our Goal!’,, accessed 15 October 2008.

2 Janša, Janez, Janša, Janez and Janša, Janez, eds., NAME Readymade (Ljubljana: Moderna Galerija), 2008, p. 156. See also Barbara Orel, ‘Naming Policy and the Performativity of Culture: The Case of Janez Janša’, privately held typescript, pp. 4–5.

3 Janša, Janša and Janša, NAME Readymade, p. 161.

4 Chiapello, Eve, ‘Evolution and Co-optation’, Third Text, 18, 6 (2004), pp. 585–94, here pp. 591–2.

5 Lev Kreft, ‘The Name as a Readymade: An Interview with Janez Janša, Janez Janša, and Janez Janša’, in Janša, Janša and Janša, NAME Readymade, pp. 147–70, here p. 160.

6 Foucault, Michel, ‘What Is an Author?’, trans. Harari, Josue V., in Lodge, David, ed., Modern Criticism and Theory (London: Longman, 1988), pp. 197210, here p. 209.

7 Blaž Lukan, ‘The Janez Janša Project’, in Janša, Janša and Janša, NAME Readymade, pp. 11–28, here pp. 13–15.

8 Arns, Inke and Sasse, Sylvia, ‘Subversive Affirmation: On Mimesis as a Strategy of Resistance’, Maska, 21, 3–4 (Spring 2006), pp. 521, here p. 6.

9 Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (dir. Larry Charles, Four by Two Productions, 2006).

10 Žižek, Slavoj, The Universal Exception (London: Continuum, 2006), p. 65.

11 Blaž Lukan, ‘Janša in Ambrus (Slovene National Theatre by Janez Janša, 2007)’, available at, accessed 15 October 2008.

12 Presentation by Janez Janša to the PSi conference in Zagreb, 26 June 2009.

13 The legitimacy of the family's position was also complicated by environmental concerns over the land that they owned but were not allowed to build on because of the underground water which they allegedly polluted.

14 Lukan, ‘Janša in Ambrus’.

15 See Lehmann, Hans-Thies, Postdramatic Theatre (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 99104.

16 Ibid., p. 104.

17 Heuvel, Michael Vanden, Performing Drama/Dramatizing Performance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), p. 50.

18 Vevar, ‘The More of Us There Are’. The NSK also created their own nation state with passports, insignia etc.

19 Barbara Orel, ‘Ideological Observatory, Neue Slowenische Kunst, Rituals and Playing Culture’, paper delivered at the IFTR conference in Seoul 2008, privately held.

20 Janša, Janša and Janša, NAME Readymade, p. 165.

21 Ibid., p. 167.

22 Ibid., p. 164.

23 Ibid., p. 164.

24 Apparently this new measure was originally designed to control the movement of Roma people in Italy so that they could be arrested by the police if they were not carrying identity papers.

25 Foucault, Michel, ‘Governmentality’, in Burchell, G., Gordon, C. and Miller, P., eds., The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (London: Harverster Press, 1991), pp. 87104, here p. 103.

26 Janša, Janša and Janša, NAME Readymade, pp. 157–60. Emil Hrvatin told me that the most worrying experience from the name change had been the disappointed reaction of his own father. Interview, 26 June 2009.

27 Janša, Janša and Janša, NAME Readymade, p. 191.

28 Ibid., pp. 191–5. The performance was reinstated two days after the opening of the festival and after the artists had already performed without permission.

29 Derrida, Jacques, ‘Signature Event Context’, trans. Weber, Samuel and Mehlman, Jeffrey, in Graff, Gerald, ed., Limited Inc (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), pp. 123, here p. 20.

30 Project text by Peter Eisenman, available at, accessed 1 July 2009.

31 Janša, Janša and Janša, NAME Readymade, p. 156.

32 When I asked Emil Hrvatin what name he might choose next, he replied that he had been given many suggestions. He seemed quite amused when a colleague of mine suggested that he change his name to Slavoj Žižek. Interview, 26 June 2009, Zagreb.

33 Janša, Janša and Janša, NAME Readymade, p. 185.

34 See Derrida, ‘Signature Event Context’, pp. 13–19.

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Theatre Research International
  • ISSN: 0307-8833
  • EISSN: 1474-0672
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