• Everything we see could also be otherwise (My sweet little lamb)
    20 September – 11 November 2017

    The Showroom (63 Penfold St, Marylebone, London NW8 8PQ, UK) Curated by: What, How & for Whom/WHW, in collaboration with Kathrin Rhomberg, co-curated by Emily Pethick Preview: Tuesday 19 September, 6.30–8.30pm Exhibition opening hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 12–6pm The Showroom presents the epilogue of a long-term project which took place over several months in Zagreb (November 2016 to May 2017), which contextualised and rethought the Kontakt Art Collection. It was curated by What, How & for Whom/WHW in collaboration with Kathrin Rhomberg. This final exhibition is co-curated by The Showroom Director Emily Pethick. Taking selected works from the Vienna-based Kontakt Art Collection as its point of departure, including seminal pieces by some of the most prominent artists from Central, Eastern and South-East Europe since the 1960s, the exhibition stages an interplay between these and other historical, contemporary and newly produced works that interpret and critically examine the collection. The project unfolded in six episodes in Zagreb, each iteration influencing, contradicting and reinforcing each other. It took place in a number of smaller art spaces, artists' studios, private apartments and other locations related to artistic production and the broader cultural landscape of the city. This final stage of the project at The Showroom continues to reframe and expand the context of the collection. Interlacing geographically and poetically heterogeneous artist practices, the project attempts to punctuate standardized presentations and interpretations of works that have dominated international art circuits over the last few decades, with more disorderly and experimental arrangements. The project title is taken from a work by Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović (1947–2016), to whom the project is dedicated. Stilinović's life-long anti-systemic approach, his quiet but shrewd rebellion against social conventions and the conventions of art, and an artistic practice that trenchantly and humorously engages with complex themes of ideology, work, money, pain and poverty, inspired a generation of artists worldwide. The project is a cooperation with Kontakt Art Collection and is supported by Erste Group Bank AG and ERSTE Foundation.


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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.


Born in Prague, Czech Republic, 1953.

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.

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