• 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


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.


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