• WHO WAS 1968?
    28 Sept 2018 − 13 Jan 2019

    LENTOS Kunstmuseum WHO WAS 1968? Art, Architecture, Society Curated by: Hedwig Saxenhuber, Georg Schöllhammer Loans by Kontakt from: Heimrad Bäcker, Stanisław Dróżdż, VALIE EXPORT, Stano Filko, Běla Kolářová, Július Koller, Natalia LL, Karel Miler, Petr Štembera, Raša Todosijević and Goran Trbuljak A decade of eruptions, departures and redefinitions in the steel city Linz. The year I968 marks a turning point that ushered in a new era. Across Western Europe and in the United States Student protests and workers’ revolts called into question the post-war power structure itself, while Soviet tanks bulldozed the Prague Spring into the ground and signalled the end of the hope that the Eastern Bloc would open up to the West. This exhibition harks back to the echoes of I968 in Linz and Upper Austria. Embracing the arts, architecture, music, film and literature, it unfolds for the first time a synoptic map on which key figures and moments of local history – some largely unknown to this day – are accorded a place. It enables visitors to embark on exploratory trips and to survey the rich fabric of relationships and linkages that includes points of contact with international scenarios and trends. Experiments in the aesthetic field were begun with a view to escaping from the cultural stuffiness of the first two post-war decades. The participating artists include: Claudia von Alemann, Ant Farm, Heimrad Bäcker, Josef Bauer, Bill Bollinger, Dietmar Brehm, Gerd Conradt, Waltraut Cooper, Stanisław Dróżdż, Erró, VALIE EXPORT, Harun Farocki, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Stano Filko, Helmuth Gsöllpointner, Timo Huber, Johann Jascha, Martha Jungwirth, Gülsün Karamustafa, Gerhard Knogler, Běla Kolářová, Juliús Koller, Peter Kubelka, Zofia Kulik, KwieKulik, Maria Lassnig, Fritz Lichtenauer, Natalia LL, Karel Miler, Josef Nöbauer, OHO, Yoko Ono, Gina Pane, Friederike Pezold, Cora Pongracz, Chris Reinecke, Martha Rosler, Dieter Roth, Zorka Sàglovà, Dominik Steiger, Petr Štembera, Raša Todosijević, Goran Trbuljak, Tucumàn Arde, Jiřì Valoch, Agnés Varda, Peter Weibel, Hannah Wilke, Jana Želibská, Želimir Žilnik, Zünd-Up


Karel Miler

Performance art played a short but all the more intensive role in the life of art historian Karel Miler. At the turn of the 1970s, Miler was actively working with visual poetry. His interest lay in the semantic and spatial context of the language code, which he did not perceive as an expression of individual feelings, but as an independent structure.  In 1971, when he got to know Petr Štembera, who was already working with physical performances at that time, Miler realized that semantic play can also be expressed with the body. This is what led to the creation of the first performance “Buď - a nebo” (Either - Or) (1972), in which he transferred ideas from his minimalist texts to a real corporeal level. Even Miler's work within body art was that of a poet; he used his body to create conceptual, clearly unambiguous situations that he captured using a precisely orchestrated shot for a tripod-mounted camera.  Rarely were his performances undertaken before viewers. These can be described as “photo-model performances” that only communicate with the viewer after the fact and require no further commentary.

Even though Miler’s works were created during the "normalization period", referring to the repressive period of the communist regime following the 1968 occupation, the paralyzing situation of Czechoslovak society and culture is very rarely present in his performances. Although an expressive simplicity and urgency typical for this period appears here, the main aspect for Miler is a kind of timeless poetics.  This stemmed from his admiration for Zen and his desire to find a reflection of the universe in extreme body gestures.  In his performances the body is generalized, stripped of any dependencies on everyday life. It enters a timeless universal level, as a curled-up figure falls from a pile of pre-fab panels in the performance “Identifikace” (Identification) (1973). 

This type of work stood in stark contrast to the official aesthetic ideas of the Czechoslovak artistic establishment of that period. It was almost a private activity carried out and reflected upon within a closed circle of kindred spirits. Even though the circle around Karel Miler and Petr Štembera decided in the late 1970s to stop working in performances, Miler's work assumed a key position within the context of Czechoslovak post-war art.  


1940, Praha / CZ, at that time ČSSR

Miler is a conceptual artist. He studied Art History at the Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic) from 1961 to 1966. Miler worked at the National Gallery in Prague from 1969 to 1997. Together with fellow artists Jan Mlčoch and Petr Štembera he organized and performed actions from about 1970 to about 1980.

Please follow this link for a selected bibliography available at the ERSTE Foundation Library
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