Milan Knizak

(Pilsen, Czechoslovakia 1940, lives in Prague)

Milan Knizak is a Czech performance artist, sculptor, musician, installation artist, dissident, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art.

At the beginning of the 1960s, he created his first activity – happenings, ceremonies, installations and various environments on the busy or calm streets or in courtyards of Prague. Milan Knížák lived in the street directly in the New World. There was also visited by an American beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg or minimal artist Joseph Kosuth.

He was a member of Fluxus, an international (anti-)artistic community of music, actions, poetry, objects and events. Milan Knížák was “Director Fluxus East” by Maciunas from the year 1965. Knížák’s attitude to Fluxus remained critical, since he found many actions and their setting in a classical stage context artificial.

Together with his friends he founded a group of contemporary art (Actual Art). Sometime around 1966 the word “art” was dropped from the name and group was called poor “AKTUAL”. Already known and also documented are their actions in the part of old Prague called New World, such as: “Demonstration of One” (1964).

In October 1966, Knížák organised the Fluxus concert in Prague, in which he appeared together with Ben Vautier, Jeff Berner, Serge Oldenbourg, Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles. George Maciunas already invited Knížák to New York, he participated in the Fluxus events taking place there; in New Brunswick he realised his Lying Ceremony and the Difficult Ceremony in New York 1968. Maciunas prepared the publication of Knížák’s collected works as a Fluxus Edition, but they never actually appeared.

In 1970, Knížák returned to Czechoslovakia. His works was exhibited in the galleries in the East bloc, f.e. Kraków in Poland, Budapest in Hungary but also in capitalistic Austria. Always under police surveillance, and he was also arrested on occasion.

Some of AKTUAL’s songs were remastered by unofficial musical group The Plastic People of the Universe, which members became, somewhat against their will, dissidents during political process in the autumn of the year 1976.

He received a fellowship from the DAAD Artists’ Programme and came to Berlin in 1979 where he meet with artists Wolf Vostell and Czech poet in emigration Jiří Kolář., after which he was frequently represented at exhibitions in Germany. Since 1990, Knížák has been teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, and has been director of the National Gallery in Prague since 1999.
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