Milan Knížák

born 19 April 1940, 
in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia

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


Childhood and early life in the Protectorate and in the former Sudetenland (1940-1960)

Milan Knizak is the son of the painter, musician and teacher of mathematics Karel Knížák from Doubravka u Plzně, nowadays part of the town Plzeň, and Julia Knížáková. The parents taught in Jarov /1932 - 1934/ and later in Blovice close to Pilsen. Milan Knížák was born in Plzeň on 19 April 1940. In 1945, after the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia the family moved to the Mariánské Lázně, a spa town town in the former Sudetenland, close to the German border. There, his father played violin in a spa orchestra and Milan attended primary school, where he was interested in music and literature. He also took piano, trumpet and guitar lessons.

Studies and beginnings (1955-1965)

He started painting at fourteen. He attended secondary/high- school (Gymnasium in Planá u Mariánských Lázní) and graduated in 1957. One of his schoolmate was gallery gangster MUDr. Pavel Náprava (*1938) known in sixties like a "thief with the academic title" On several occasions young Milan visited the studio of the unofficial painter and war veteran Vladimír Modrý (1907–1976). Later he wrote /in his diaries from USA/ about movie Fantastic voyage that its scenes reminded him the paintings by Vladimir Modrý. In one interview Milan Knížák said about this period:
“I share with Modrý the fear from the spirit of mob”
From his childhood in Mariánské Lázně is known a story from one empty house. One day he appeared a secret garret warehouse of the quirts. His first exhibition was in 1958 in Mariánské Lázně. In the period of 1957-1958 He attended the Pedagogical University in Prague, majoring in art education - Russian language. He said it was a compromise between the wishes of his parents and his desire to be a painter, later he dropped out. Then he became assistant worker in Prague exhibition grounds. He later passed the exams at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, where he also later abandoned. Then he studied the mathematical analysis of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics in Prague. This studies after the first year was interrupted.

Actual and public art (1960 - 1975)

At the beginning of the sixties He created his first activity - happenings, ceremonies, installations and various environments on the busy or calm streets or in courtyards of Prague.
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). 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 was a member of Fluxus, an international (anti-)artistic community of music, actions, poetry, objects and events. Milan Knížák was director of Fluxus East from the year 1965. He is known for organising and performing the first happenings and concerts in Czechoslovakia: e.g. A Walk around Novy Svět (The part of old Prague is called "New World") and the Demonstration for Oneself (both 1964). Later he had contacts with Fluxus since 1965, the first contact mediated Czech philosopher Jindřich Chalupecký. Knížák was promoted to “Director Fluxus East” by director George Maciunas about 1965. In the countries of former Eastern bloc there were managed these activities: Fluxus festivals in Vilnius (1966), Prague (1966), Budapest (1969), and Poznan (1977).

Fluxus festival in Prague 1966

In the 60 years 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. In October 1966, Milan Knížák organised the first Fluxus concert in Czechoslovakia in Prague. in which he appeared together with Ben Vautier, Jeff Berner, Alison Knowles, Serge Oldenbourg and Dick Higgins. George Maciunas invited Knížák to the USA in 1965. He had a visa in 1968. He participated in the Fluxus events there.
He realised his Lying Ceremony in New Brunswick and the "Difficult Ceremony" in New York. George Maciunas prepared the publication of Knížák’s collected works as a Fluxus Edition. He returned to Czechoslovakia in 1970. His works was exhibited in the galleries in the East bloc, f.e. Kraków in Poland, Budapest in Hungary but also in capitalistic Austria. In 1979 he received a fellowship from the DAAD to West Berlin, where he meet with artists Wolf Vostell and Czech poet in emigrationJiří Kolář. In West Berlin he cooperated like a designer on one avantgard film and created the automobile cycle of collages for the trust[disambiguation needed ] of Volkswagen.


Fashion, specification: Cut the coat along its entire length. Wear each half separately.
Catalogue, specification: Get a catalogue.
Killing the Books
, specification: by shooting, by burning, by drowning, by cutting, by gluing, by painting white, or red, or black...
Lying Ceremony
: specification: Blindfolded people lie on the ground for a long time. New York, New Brunswick. USA.


Milan Knížák is a professor of intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague since 1990.

Ecal école cantonale d´art de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland – lectures, lecture on history of performing art
Centre Georges Pompidou, Domaine de Boisbuchet, France – extension and pedagogy
1991, 1992:
Vitra Museum, Weil am Rhein, BRD – lectures
Sommerakademie Berlin, BRD – pedagogy
1990 -1997:
Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, chancellor and professor of intermedia
since 1989:
professor of intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague
1987, 1990, 1993, 1996:
Inter. Sommerakademie Salzburg, Rakousko – pedagogy and lectures
HfBK Hamburg, BRD – lectures on art
University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA + UCLA, Los Angeles, USA – lectures on performing art