SYMPOSIUM | What’s in a Name?
10 January 2018 — 11 January 2018

Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, +MSUM


The symposium What’s in a Name? accompanies the survey exhibition Janez Janša® by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia from 18 October 2017 to 18 February 2018 (curated by Domenico Quaranta and co-produced by Moderna galerija, MG+MSUM and Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana).


Proper names indicate subjects in their social and political surroundings, allowing for individuals to be distinguished. But names can also act as deregulating agents of subjects, as well as of governmental procedures. Names are performative – they can ‘stand’ for what or whom they indicate in the same way that they can destabilize them. Proper names operate as an interface between individuals and society, and they are always at work. At the same time, however, names are empty signifiers as they ‘wait’ to be filled in by a bearer, to make a ‘proper’ name out of a name. How does a name perform? How do subjects perform their own names? Or, to paraphrase J. L. Austin, ‘how do we do things with names?’


The symposium explores instances in which names question, among other things, subjectivity, authorship and regimes of naming, by focusing on the renaming and work by the artists Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša, who in 2007 jointly changed their names to that held by the then Prime Minister of Slovenia. The boundaries between their lives and art began to blur in numerous and unforeseen ways. They have been living their private and public lives, working individually and collectively under the same name, and exploring the philosophical, psychological, political, biopolitical, historical, legal, economic, linguistic, and social implications of the name change. They turned their lives into an ongoing performance, and their art into a powerful means to question rituals and conventions, as well as to discuss the status and function of identity-related objects such as signatures, passports, ID cards, credit and debit cards.


The papers to be presented at the symposium investigate the topic of names from various perspectives, and explore how names ‘capture’ and at the same time generate different modes of agency and possibilities for (political) intervention. Names can cause problems, confuse, evoke … or simply (un)do our perception of reality.




The symposium is part of the ongoing education program Seminar for Contemporary Performing Arts, organised by Maska, Institute for Publishing, Artistic Production and Education, Ljubljana, Slovenia and is conceptually affiliated with the conference Concept/s, organized by Aufhebung – the International Hegelian Association – to be held in Ljubljana from the 11th-14th of January 2018.


The symposium is organized by Maska in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova and Kinodvor. The program of Maska is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Slovenia and Municipality of Ljubljana.


What’s in a Name? is conceptually affiliated with the conference Concept/s, organized by Aufhebung – the International Hegelian Association – to be held in Ljubljana from the 11th-14th of January 2018. 






10 January 2018

Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, +MSUM


11 a.m.

On Names, launch of the Performance Research issue

With the guest editors Konstantina Georgelou and Janez Janša


11.30 a.m.

Aldo Milohnić: How to do Things with Names and Signatures. On the politics of performative (re)naming


12 p.m.

Urša Chitrakar: Is Art Breaking a Law? Certain legal aspects of art by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša


12.30 p.m.



3.30 p.m.

Mala Kline: On Art Between Autonomy and Non-autonomy. The Janez Janša Project by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša


4 p.m.

Konstantina Georgelou: Janez Janša: Acts of Politicisation by Means of Art


4.30 p.m.

Lev Kreft: All About Janez Janša


5 p.m.




7.30 p.m., Kinodvor, Kolodvorska ulica 13, Ljubljana

Screening of the documentary film My name is Janez Janša (2012)


Followed by the launch of the book Janez Janša and Beyond with the contributors:

Mladen Dolar What's in a Name?


Jela Krečič Žižek In the Name of the Name


Robert Pfaller From Sameness to Moreness. Comicality and the Poetics of Proliferation





11 January 2018

Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, +MSUM, 3.30 p.m.

Launch of the exhibition catalogue and guided tour of the exhibition Janez Janša® with the exhibition curator Domenico Quaranta.






Urša Chitrakar

Is Art Breaking a Law?

Certain legal aspects of art by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša

When Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša first introduced me to their work and the dilemmas they were faced with in relation to the potential purchase of their identity cards by the Moderna galerija (Ljubljana), they asked me: “Do you think our art is against the law?”

There is no simple answer to that question or to any other legal aspect of their artistic endeavours. It remains unresolved if a museum can legally acquire or borrow the identity cards in order to exhibit them as artworks. However, the true value of an artwork is not limited to the tangible object in which it is embedded, but lies in its immaterial manifestation. This was evident when one of the passports was sold (as a conceptual artwork) in an auction without being taken from the possession of the artist who continued to use it as an identity document.

Another controversial legal issue is the question as to whether the act of changing one’s name or exhibiting the related identity documents meet the requirements for copyright protection at all. On the other hand, it is already established that the name Janez Janša has a certain proprietary value, and was thus successfully registered by the artists as a trade mark.

Therefore, by asserting their fundamental human rights (like freedom of expression), the artists are not only questioning the existing legal framework and the authorities responsible for implementing it, but also making the distributors of their artwork and their audience challenge their own compliance with the law.


Mladen Dolar

What's in a Name?

A name always bears a symbolic mandate. As soon as false pretenders appear, questions arise as to the symbolic mandate’s power, its validity and justification. Names refer to genealogies, yet thereby always involve a certain distribution of power. To arrogate a name is to arrogate power. There is a claim to power in every name, in assuming the social role that goes with it, in transmitting a symbolic legacy, in its social impact, and in genealogical inscription. The story of false pretenders entails the moment of bemusement – one’s feeling that, really, one is always a false pretender, as there’s no way one could inhabit a name legitimately, naturally, feeling fully justified bearing the name one has. No sufficient grounds can ever substantiate it; no name is ever covered by the Leibnizian principle of sufficient reason. The feeling of being an impostor, false pretender to a name, isn’t personal sentiment or idiosyncrasy; it’s a structural feeling accompanying names – their shadow and effect.


Konstantina Georgelou

Janez Janša: Acts of Politicisation by Means of Art

The lecture will investigate the ongoing artistic work of the three artists as a process of politicisation that contests today’s individualised world by creating inter-sectorial involvement and infrastructural collaborations. In the long course of their projects, the artists, as well as the institutions they work with, politicians, the media, banks, the legal system and governmental ministries, are confronted with the emergence of problems and paradoxical situations in which critical decisions and (joint) actions need to be made. Drawing on their collective and continuous engagement, I will suggest that their work envisions a type of artistic activity that enters the logic of infrastructural, legal and administrative procedures, captures their inconsistency and moves it off its axis. Living in a perpetual state of precarity, anxiety and hopelessness where it becomes difficult to decide how to (re)act and resist, the artists’ work seems to critically cast the question of ‘how to act today?’ and to envisage action as the formation of an engaged mode of co-existence.


Mala Kline

On Art Between Autonomy and Non-autonomy

The Janez Janša Project by Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša

The presentation looks at the gesture of re-naming three Janez Janšas after the former Prime Minister of Slovenia through Giorgio Agamben’s triad Life – Language – Law to discern the potentiality that opens up and becomes available through a change of name. It is shown how by intervening into the institutionalised frameworks and rearranging the public sphere, which according to Chantal Mouffe is designated by the lack of any constitutive political antagonism and adversarial politics, the gesture of re-naming continuously renders visible the antagonistic relation between politics and art. The presentation concludes by stating that the greatest political potential of the gesture of re-naming lays exactly in its insisting to not explain the reasons for the change of name. It is precisely through its non-transparency and strategies that keep it a provisional outcome of unforeseeable circumstances that stem from its contradictory public position, that this work challenges the normative and discursive operations only to affirm the uncertain freedom of expression and political legitimacy of art as a commons. It shows that it is perhaps more powerful and politically intricate to weave the common ties through what is still to come, and not around a predefined ideology and a political agenda.


Jela Krečič

In the Name of the Name

In the last decade, the Janez Janša project has reached far beyond the Slovene aesthetic and political scene. This project addresses several dimensions of proper name and name-change, from ontology to politics in a broader sense. In the artists’ work a proper name becomes the focus of a work of art. More precisely, the name's appearance and function in legal and other documents, such as ID cards, passports, and bank cards, plays a central role in their artistic endeavours: exhibitions, and installations. The question is how can we interpret this in the context of an art system or in artistic discourse. Michel Foucault's famous text “What is an Author?” opens an interesting theoretical perspective on how an author's name is entangled with the work of art, and how exhibiting a name reveals the power and influence of author's name in art and art discourse. The Janez Janša project(s) disturbs prevailing notions of artists, art systems, and the role of a name –things we usually take for granted. When the name becomes the central object of art, the firm ground of the author's functions and art discourse pay the price.


Lev Kreft

All About Janez Janša

In 2007, Emil Hrvatin, Davide Grassi and Žiga Kariž changed their names to Janez Janša, Janez Janša and Janez Janša. When this occurred, the most well-known and prominent Janez Janša in Slovenia was the head of government (2004 - 2008), and the enemy of alternative culture. But three new-born Janez Janšas announced that their change of names was a private decision and not a public statement. The most interesting part of their collective projects is the use of names as readymades. Such works deal with identity, with means of identification, and with the exposed metaphysics and fetishism of personal documents as a special kind of “ordinary thing,” at the same time confirming and denying that “individuals are systems of representation” (Arthur Danto). I will concentrate on two topics: the name and personal documents as readymades, and an explanation of the art world’s anxiety, discomfort and aversion to this project.


Aldo Milohnić

How to do Things with Names and Signatures

On the politics of performative (re)naming

It was Matisse who once said that artists should periodically change their names, and the Slovene artists Žiga Kariž, Emil Hrvatin and Davide Grassi have been actively working on the materialisation of that idea since 2007m when they officially changed their names to Janez Janša. Although the artists insist that they had strictly ‘personal reasons’ for this act of a radical intervention on their own personalities, it is quite obvious that in this case a ‘real name’ is actually being ‘pirated’ by them and turned into a kind of multiple name. Their new name is no longer a pseudonym, but instead it starts to function as homonym -- it is shifted into a more complex net of meaning. This complexity can be examined based on numerous examples accumulated as part of a series over the last ten years of the ‘Janša Project.’ I will highlight two of these: Signature Event Context (2008) and Signature (2010). I will first discuss the theoretical context of the signature and then, in the second part of this presentation, I will come to the main point – the performativity of (re)naming based on the three Janšas’ interplay of signatures and identities. Finally, I will offer possible answers to two issues provoked by the three Janšas’ attempt to do things with names and signatures: first, how the performance Signature Event Context and the exhibition Signature are related to other projects in the series; and second, whether the signature still serves as a guarantor of the authenticity of a work of art, or is it rather a product of the method of name-creation?


Robert Pfaller

From Sameness to Moreness. Comicality and the Poetics of Proliferation​

Comicality and the Poetics of Proliferation

Imagine a whole sentence, or even a poem, composed of only one and the same signifier or its equivalents. An inscription on an old Vienna shop window, advertising for maps and globes, once gave me a showcase example for such a "modular poem." It said: "world star planet earth" ("Weltstar Planet Erde"). Four equivalent elements, put together in a row that made up a sentence – just like the three Slovene artists that, by taking on the name of another man, started existing in a row now built of four equivalent elements. In my contribution, I want to examine the profound aesthetic pleasure that arises once equivalence is turned into contiguity: when the Saussurean "axes" of language appear to become the same, it is as if a certain tiresome "gravity" of speaking had been overcome: a joyful triumph, just as if in the social world the boring division of identities, properties, belongings and so on had been suspended and all men had become brothers.






Urša Chitrakar is an attorney specialising in copyright, intellectual property and related entertainment business issues. Among her clients are artists and their agencies, as well as publishers, record labels, film producers and advertising agencies. Besides regular legal counselling, she lectures on copyright and is involved in research studies related to intellectual property.


Mladen Dolar is Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana. His principal areas of research are psychoanalysis, modern French philosophy, German idealism and art theory. He has lectured extensively at universities in US and across Europe, he is the author of over hundred papers in scholarly journals and collective volumes. Apart from ten books in Slovene, his most notable book publications include A Voice and Nothing More (MIT 2006, translated into five languages) and Opera's Second Death (with Slavoj Žižek, Routledge 2001, also translated into several languages).


Konstantina Georgelou is a performing arts theorist, dramaturge and researcher, currently working as a lecturer at the ArtEZ University for the Arts and at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Her research spans the areas of choreography, artistic research and philosophy, with a specific focus on the ethical and political aspects of performance. She recently co-edited the book The Practice of Dramaturgy: Working on Actions in Performance, Amsterdam: Valiz, 2016.


Mala Kline (SI/BE) is a performer, choreographer and writer. She holds an MA in theatre and PhD in philosophy. Her PhD thesis has been turned into a book, The Inoperative Theatres: Contemporary Performing Arts Between Ethics and Politics, which will be published in 2018. She is currently doing her post-doctoral research on the alternative concepts and uses of time, at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy (UG) and within the S:PAM research centre in Ghent.


Jela Krečič Žižek is a Slovene journalist, columnist and philosopher. She writes for the largest national newspaper Delo. Her theoretical research focuses on films, TV series, the star system, and aesthetics, and she has published several studies on these topics. She also co-edited anthologies on contemporary TV series and on the comedies of Ernst Lubitsch (Lubitsch Can't Wait). She has published numerous essays on contemporary art, including an article on the Slovene artistic group NSK for the publication Neue Slowenische Kunst – An Event of the Final Decade of Yugoslavia, and an article on the Janez Janšas for the publication Name Readymade. Recently she also edited a volume of political theory, The Final Countdown: Europe, Refugees and the Left. Her literary debut None Like Her has been translated into English.


Lev Kreft is a cultural worker, politician and university professor. Educated to become a philosopher, Kreft’s orientations are aesthetics and the philosophy of sport. In research he has dealt with the history of aesthetics, with the aesthetics of avant-gardes, as well as with Marxist aesthetics, Marxism and Marx. Next to those topics, he has published on post-modernism and cultural turns, on conflicting points of cultural history as well as on theories of contemporary art. His most recent books are Left Sky-Hook (2011), on the philosophy of sport, and Aestheticians Studio (2015). Somewhat retired, he lives and lectures in Ljubljana.


Aldo Milohnić is Assistant Professor of the History of Theatre at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television. He is the author of several books (most recently Art in Times of the Rule of Law and Capital) and numerous articles in academic and cultural journals.


Robert Pfaller, philosopher, teaches at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria, as well as a founding member of the Viennese psychoanalytic research group stuzzicadenti. He received the "Best Book Published in 2014" award by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABAPsa) for his work The Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions without Owners (Verso, 2014), and the “The Missing Link” award by Psychoanalytisches Seminar Zurich, Switzerland in 2007. His publications include, among others: Interpassivity. The Aesthetics of Delegated Enjoyment, Edinburgh University Press, 2017; Wofür es sich zu leben lohnt. Elemente materialistischer Philosophie. Frankfurt/M.: Fischer, 2011; and Umazano Sveto in Čisti Um. Ljubljana: Analecta, 2009.


Domenico Quaranta is a contemporary art critic and curator whose work focuses on the impact of the current means of production and dissemination on the arts, and on the ways they respond – syntactically and semantically – to shifts in technology. The author of Beyond New Media Art (2013) and AFK. Texts on Artists 2011–2016 (2016), he has curated a number of exhibitions, including Collect the WWWorld (2011–2012) and Cyphoria (2016).