• Poetry & Performance / The Eastern European Perspective
    22 December 2017 − 10 March 2018

    Nová synagóga, Žilina, Slovakia Poetry & Performance / The Eastern European Perspective 22/12/17 –  10/03/18 Loans by Kontakt: Vlado Martek: Ciklus Soneti / Sonnet Cycle, 1978-79 Raša Todosijević: Znak / Sign, 1971; Skulptura / Sculpture, 1971; Was ist Kunst, Patricia Hennings? / What is Art, Patricia Hennings?, 1976; Was ist Kunst, Marinela Koželj? / What is Art, Marinela Koželj?, 1978 Tamás St. Auby: Kentaur / Centaur, 1973-1975/ 2009 Curators: Sabine Hänsgen, Tomáš Glanc, Daniel Grúň Nová synagóga in Žilina presents the exhibition Poetry & Performance. The Eastern European Perspective curated by Tomáš Glanc, Daniel Grúň and Sabine Hänsgen. The exhibition brings together more than forty artists, poets and creative groups from the countries of the former Eastern Europe as well as contemporary artistic positions. The exhibition will be opened on December 22nd from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. by a series of several performances and will run until March 10th 2018. In the second half of the twentieth century, poets and artists in particular took up the challenge of reflecting on and investigating the instrumentalization of language for communicative and political-ideological purposes. They did so by drawing attention to the “made-ness” of language, its material and medial dimension, and by creating performative situations for themselves and their audiences within which possibilities of verbal expression could be tested and acted out. In Eastern Europe, poetry and performance played a significant role in the unofficial or partially tolerated cultural scene. The writing practice of samizdat and its relation to the devices of concrete and visual poetry have been treated and presented in a number of previous projects. Until now however, less consideration has been given to the circumstances of performance. In addition to the typescript literature of samizdat, subcultural milieus attached particular importance to the oral recitation of poems, exhibitions, and poetry actions. The interrelation between text and situation in poetic acts functioned as a trigger for performances and happenings. The exhibition presents authors from subcultures in socialist states along with contemporary positions that continue the legacy of combining poetry and performance. It shows the efforts of poets and artists to break free from controlled language and normative communicative now and then. Poetry & Performance. The Eastern European Perspective thus confronts the current social challenges in the post-socialist countries through the prism of language and ideology and looks back at their points of departure. Artists: Milan Adamčiak, Pavel Arsenev, Babi Badalov, Bosch+Bosch (Attila Csernik, Slavko Matković, László Szalma), Collective Actions Group, Ľubomír Ďurček, Else Gabriel / Via Lewandowsky, Rimma Gerlovina, Tomislav Gotovac, Group of Six Artists, Bohumila Grögerová / Josef Hiršal, Gino Hahnemann, Václav Havel, Jörg Herold, Semyon Khanin (Orbita), Kinship Moho (Zuzana Jasenková, Kristína Országhová, Magdaléna Scheryová), Dávid Koronczi, Katalin Ladik, Yuri Leiderman / Andrey Silvestrov, Vlado Martek, Andrei Monastyrski, Monogramista T.D, Ladislav Novák, Pavel Novotný, NSRD (Hardijs Lediņš, Juris Boiko, Imants Žodžiks), OHO Group (Nuša & Srečo Dragan, Naško Križnar), Boris Ondreička, Orange Alternative, Roman Osminkin, Ewa Partum, Bogdanka Poznanović, Dmitri Prigov, Lev Rubinstein, Nóra Ružičková / Marianna Mlynárčiková, Mladen Stilinović, Gabriele Stötzer, Tamás Szentjóby, Bálint Szombathy, Raša Todosijević, Jaromír Typlt, Jiří Valoch. Nová synagóga, Žilina, Slovakia J. M. Hurbana 220/11, 010 01 Wednesday — Sunday, 1 p.m. — 7 p.m. free entry (voluntary)


back to Artists
Jan Mlčoch

A decisive factor for Jan Mlčoch’s performance art was his meeting with Karel Miler and Petr Štembera, which provided him the impulse to make the move from recording dreams and events in his journal to creating and recording them with a short text and photography.  As with other members of Prague’s body-art circle, performance was also important for him for reasons other than artistic ones. In the difficult social situation following the occupation in 1968 when “socialism with a human face” was replaced by “normalization”, a second, harsher phase of the totalitarian regime, performance was one of the possibilities of free personal expression, a way of balancing a fragile relationship to the world. Perhaps Mlčoch was able to do this best in his performance “Zavěšení - Velký spánek” (Suspension - Great Sleep) (1974) when he had himself suspended by his arms and legs with his eyes and ears covered in a large attic space. His body entered into a “weightless” state that enabled him for a few minutes to experience a pure existence free of everyday burdens.

Each “piece”, which the performances were often called in the Czech context during that period, has four parts: the idea, visualisation, realisation and documentation. It is the visualisation that holds the most important role in Jan Mlčoch’s work; his actions are often enigmatic situations that we’d expect more in dreams than in everyday reality. It’s no accident that Czech philosopher Petr Rezek came up with the idea, in connection with the previously mentioned performance, to interpret performance as a dream. In doing so, he touched on a number of essential aspects of performance art, since performance, despite the fact that it shifts real life elsewhere, is like a dream in that it’s anchored in reality.

During the 1970s, Mlčoch carried out over twenty performances in which he made use of various expressive possibilities and methods. In addition to purely body art performance, he also undertook a number of performances that dealt with social issues, the contrast of the personal and social, of the internal and external. He was the only Czech body artist to openly touch on political themes. “Bianco” and “Noc” (Night), performances from 1977, are examples of this. Most of Mlčoch’s performances were, however, more of a personal nature. Some were carried out in solitude; others were witnessed by a small audience that consisted of either Mlčoch's close friends or viewers who regularly attended private performance evenings organized at various places. From today’s perspective Mlčoch’s most interesting performances were undertaken in public spaces.  For instance, in the 1975 performance “Vzpomínky na p.” ("Remembering P.") he sold for an hour at the city marketplace personal items that reminded him of friends, or his 1980 performance “Noclehárna” (Hostel) at the De Appel Gallery in Amsterdam that essentially anticipated contemporary participative art. This was Mlčoch’s very last performance. Like Petr Štembera and Karel Miler, Mlčoch decided to stop his performance works in the late 1970s.


1953, Praha / CZ, at that time ČSSR

Mlčoch had a background in literature when he decided in the early 1970s, after having seen fellow artist Petr Štembera’s work, to do his own actions. Together with Karel Miler they organized and performed actions from about 1970 to about 1980. At the beginning of the 1980s all three stopped performing and afterwards became curators.

Lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic.

Solo Exhibitions (selected):

1980     “Jan Mlčoch, Gratis slapen”, De Appel, Amsterdam, the Netherlands      

Group Exhibitions (selected):

2011     “Museum of Parallel Narratives. In the framework of L’Internationale”, MACBA Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

2009     “Gender Check. Rollenbilder in der Kunst Osteuropas“, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland; MUMOK Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria

2007     Prague Biennale 3, Prague, Czech Republic

2006     “Arteast Collection 2000+23”, Moderna galerija, Ljubljana, Slovenia

2005     “Support 3. Fluxus, Happening, Konzeptkunst“, Neue Galerie Graz, Graz, Austria

2004     “Kurze Karrieren”, MUMOK Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, Austria

2002     “Corps et traces”, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon, France

This bibliography provides a list of books available in the
ERSTE Foundation Library

Books/Exhibition Catalogues


Birgus, Vladimír, Mlčoch, Jan, artists. 2009. Tschechische Fotografie des 20. Jahrhunderts. Bonn: Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH Bonn [Exhib. Cat., Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland in Bonn (Mar. 13-Jul. 26, 2009)]


Neuburger, Susanne, Saxenhuber, Hedwig, eds. 2004. Kurze Karrieren: Stephen Kaltenbach, Christine Kozlov, Lee Lozano, Konrad Lueg, Karel Miler, Jan Mlčoch, Hilka Nordhausen, OHO, Verena Pfisterer, Charlotte Posenenske, Petr Štembera, Goran Trbuljak. Cologne: König [Exhib. Cat., Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (May 20-Aug. 1, 2004)]


Karel Miler, Petr Štembera, Jan Mlčoch: 1970-1980. 1997. Curated by Karel Srp. Prague: Galerie Hlavního Mesta.

Media File
List of Works
Browse All