Fluxus East

Fluxus Networks in Central Eastern Europe

Milan Knížák

1940, born in Pilsen, Czechia
Lives in Prague

Initially, Knížák wanted to be a painter, but broke off a study of art in 1962. That year, he also produced his first environments in streets and courtyards. Together with Jan Mach, Vít Mach, Sonia Švecová, Jan Trtílek and Robert Wittmann, he founded the group Aktuální umění (Actual Art), which removed the word “art” from its name in 1966 and was known as Aktual from then on. Aktual staged numerous actions that involved a chance audience, e.g. A Walk around Novy Svět (New World) and the Demonstration for Oneself (both 1964). Besides their actions, the group published small editions of handbills, samizdat magazines and objects. Aktual proclaimed a complete union of art and life and focused its interest on man, his actions and awakening people’s awareness.

Milan Knížák’s contact to Fluxus came about in 1965 through the mediation of the Czech critic Jindřich Chalupecký. Knížák was soon promoted to “Director Fluxus East” by Maciunas – and this although his attitude to Fluxus remained critical, since he found many actions and their setting in a classical stage context artificial. 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 the USA in 1965, but it was not until 1968 that he managed to obtain a visa. In New York, he participated in the Fluxus events taking place there; in New Brunswick he realised his Lying Ceremony and in New York the Difficult Ceremony. Maciunas prepared the publication of Knížák’s collected works as a Fluxus Edition, but they never actually appeared.

In 1970, Knížák returned to Czechoslovakia. Always under police surveillance, and he was also arrested on occasion. He received a fellowship from the DAAD Artists’ Programme and came to Berlin in 1979, 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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