The State of NSK and the Nigerian connection

When the webpage of the Principality of New Utopia was last updated in May 2017, Bertrand Thibert figured as its Foreign Minister (PNT 2017). Bertrand Thibert, a specialist in cyber security, also holds a passport to the NSK State. The NSK or the Slovinian art collective Neue Slowenische Kunst, established a State in 1992 (NSK 2019) as a response to the warfare and ethnic conflicts raging in the Balcan (Arns 2012). They describe themselves as an art movement working through political means (Spreeblick 2010). As opposed to the Principality of New Utopia the NSK State does not lay claim to territory. The founders visions are exterritorial and transnational (NSK 2019). Like many other micro nations the NSK State issue passports to their virtual state. These are issued unconditionally to any applicant (Spreeblick 2010). This has gotten the art project tangled up in geopolitics and boarder issues. During the first decade of 2000 the NSK State received numerous applications, including phone calls and e-mail from Nigerians who wished to use the passports to get out of Nigeria and enter the Schengen zone (Arns 2012). It produced a “general feeling of panic” (ibid.) among the founding artists of the NSK State. Being printed by the same printer which issued the official Slovenian passports, the passports looked legitimate and they were worried people might be misled and get into trouble with boarder police. Despite disclaimers on the NSK website the applications continued to pour in from Nigeria and there were indications that the passports were being traded for huge sums on the black marked as legitimate passports (ibid.). In 2010 three representatives of the NSK State went to Nigeria on an art/diplomatic mission. Confronted with people who had purchased their passports / art project on the black marked proved a “truly intense and ambivalent experience” (Arns 2012):

“Two of the NSK State’s founders, who had always thought of the state as an abstract concept and intellectual tool, were suddenly confronted with a position that no longer maintained a ‘safe’ ironic distance from the promise made the by NSK passport” (ibid.).

Despite repeated attempts at the art conference in Lagos to stress the fictive state of the NSK passport some passport holders in the audience claimed to know people who had “already been there” [to the NSK State] or who maintained their right to believe in the nearby possibility of the State’s coming into physical being (ibid.). I tried to get in contact with Foreign Minister of the Principality of New Utopia and citizen of the NSK State, Monsignor Bernard Thibert. I want to understand how two so ideologically different micronations attract him. Unfortunately my timing was bad. As he wrote to me a few days ago “I’m currently overbusy with the opening ceremony of my consulate.” Mr Thibert has been named the Honorary Consul of Montenegro in Lyon. I include this information, not as a funny aside, but to draw attention to the potential overspill from these virtual nations into the domains of transnational politics and economy.

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