Czechoslovakia, ca. 1987?. String-bound booklet comprising 62 works on papers of varying stock, housed in Soennecken plastic sleeves. Bound with twine and decorative strands of woven yarn. Various media, including xeroxed sheets (usually partially colored or annotated by hand), hand-drawn illustrations, thirty-four mounted original photographic prints (both black-and-white and color), as well as ink-stamped dates and hand-written annotations.
Unique and apparently unpublished maquette or artists' book created by Fluxus-East Director Milan Knížák (born 1940) toward the end of the communist reign in Czechoslovakia. An assemblage of original works on loose leaves of paper, the volume was clearly meant for export to the West, where Knížák hoped for wider acclaim after periodically spending time in both the United States and Western Europe in the late 1960s-1980s (his contact details are written beneath a mounted portrait of the artist, notably in international format). The book gathers a range of design work spanning most of the artist's career, from 1960 to 1986, including fashion, furniture, lamps, makeup, accessories, and objects, through mounted (and often creatively trimmed) original photographs, paper-cuts, hand-colored xeroxed and mimeographed sheets.
Born in 1940, Knížák studied at the Pedagogical University and the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, before abandoning formal education in early 1962 and founding the “Actual Art” group (Aktuální umění, later shortened to AKTUAL). The group created a spontaneous performance art through a series of “happenings” in and around Prague, performed impromptu to an accidental audience, such as “Walk Around Novy Svět” and “Demonstration for Oneself” (both 1964). By creating urban “environments,” fashion, and design objects, through his interest in everyday activities such as sports and shopping, as well as through a rock group by the same name, AKTUAL sought to elide the border between art and life, while also subverting the political order of the day. Although never officially a part of expressly political dissident groups or the Czech underground, AKTUAL also published works of samizdat and small-form artworks for clandestine circulation.
In 1965, Knížák was introduced to George Maciunas by Prague art historian, critic, and gallerist Jindřich Chalupecký, who appointed Knížák as Director of Fluxus East. In this capacity, Knížák organized the first Fluxus concert in Prague in October 1966, at which he performed together with Ben Vautier, Jeff Berner, Serge Oldenbourg, Dick Higgins, and Alison Knowles. In 1968, taking advantage of the relatively liberal Prague Spring period, Knížák was able to move to the United States, where he contributed to many key Fluxus events of the period, meeting Allan Kaprow, Alison Knowles, Dick Higgins, Maciunas, Ken Friedman, Henry Flynt, Jackson Mac Low, Emmett Williams, Geoffrey Hendricks, La Monte Young, and John Cage, among others. Maciunas had been preparing a Knížák Fluxus Edition before his departure from the US in 1970, but due to lack of funds it remained unrealized. Back in Czechoslovakia, Knížák was under permanent police surveillance throughout the 1970s, often being arrested and detained, while nevertheless continuing his artistic activities. In 1979, he was able to travel to West Germany, garnering wider exposure through events and shows in West Berlin, which culminated in two solo shows at Hamburg (1986) and Hannover (1987). Created around this time, the present work was perhaps trying to capitalize on the increased attention by critics in the West in order to establish himself in the Anglo-American art world (which might have happened sooner had the planned Fluxus Edition of 1971 been published).
Many of the photographs are reproduced in Knížák monographs of the period, such as: Flüssiges Schweigen [Liquid Silence] (Berlin, 1983), Action as a Lifestyle/Auswahl der Aktivitäten 1953–1985 (Hamburg, 1986), and Milan Knížák 1953–1988 (Brno, 1988). On Fashion and “Actualized clothing,” see: Konstantina Hlaváčková, Czech Fashion 1940-1970: Mirror of the Times and Knížák et al, Fashion is a message: Milan Knížák 1960–1988 (Ostrava, 2014).
Book ID: 51530