The German sociologist Klaus Theweleit draws attention to the role of military formations such as troops or battalions as engines of social fusion:
One unit, one man, one rhythm. Such a machine creates a testimony to power and precision; with its strict arrangement of straight lines or rectangles, and its rigid rules of combat and specific pattern of masculinity, it provides a role model for the nation. At the instant of combat, the ‘corps’ – the collective male body – disintegrates into individuals, yet they remain units of the delegated power of the entire formation. Just before the battle, the corps stands still in anticipation. What happens when the machine breaks down? The artist quotes an anecdote from Mladen Dollar (The Voice and Nothing More, MIT Press, 2006) and it is the starting point for the work: ‘In the middle of war, in the middle of battle, in the trenches stands a company of Italian soldiers. The commander shouts: Soldiers, attack! But nothing happens, nobody moves. So the commander gets angry and shouts even louder: Soldiers, attack! At that moment the answer appears, a delighted voice rising from the trenches: What a beautiful voice! (Che bella voce!).
6-channel sound installation, 6-hours record loop, Fragment of Transylvanian panorama
Courtesy of the artist
Such a refusal and comment coming from a completely different order signals a terminal mistake by the system. The artist will record the order in the languages of the army commanded by General Józef Bem (Polish, Hungarian, and Turkish). The command is activated at individual loudspeakers in a timed sequence. The sound installation refers directly to the Transylvanian Panorama, and fragments of the painting that show the attacking soldiers.
Passing the Strzeleckich palace threshold, as soon as you enter the hall, you can hear some shouts or commandments pronounced in a beautiful, stern and rhythmic manner. For many visitors, it probably sounded incomprehensible. These are fragments of the most invisible work in the exhibition. It belongs to Ukrainian Nikolay Karabinovych and is titled “Che bella voce!” – What a beautiful voice! (2019).
The artist recorded the expression “Soldiers, attack!” In the languages of the armies that Bem commanded. It resonates for short periods of time in the gallery. It’s a commentary on what sociologist Klaus Teweleit observed about the way military (or artistic) groups have a function of generating communities. They are consolidation machines. One detachment, one man, one rhythm. They demonstrate power, precision, order and a certain type of masculinity. The squad becomes a model of the nation. Just before the fight, the collective body freezes and nervously waits. But the perfect machine can be dismantled at any moment, sometimes under the threat of aesthetics.
The artist, in fact, shares an anecdote he picked up from Mladen Dolar’s book “The Voice and Nothing More” (2006). “In the middle of a battle, a company of Italian soldiers awaits their order in the trenches. The commander screams – Soldiers, attack! – The soldiers stay put. Nobody is blinks. They all look at him stunned. The commander screams the order again. And again, again, with a rising voice. At one point, a sergeant stands up and exclaims – What a beautiful voice!”