Milan Knížák

* 1940  

  • “My parents didn’t want me to join the academy. I sat for the entrance exams there for the first time in 1957 - so I came there, and I realised straight away that first day that I had no chance whatsoever. They had easels there, which I had never seen before, I didn’t even know how to adjust them. I saw how everyone could draw brilliantly because they were from technical schools, where they learnt that. I didn’t know how to do any of that, so I knew... The exams lasted a week. My mother found me some accommodation somewhere in a ‘pischinger’ (chocolate wafer cake) factory, which belonged to the same concern as the wafer factory - that was in Hrdlořezy, awfully far away. On that first day I found out I hadn’t a chance to pass the exams, but my parents had given me money for it, so I started saving it. I walked on foot from Letná to Hrdlořezy and back again, to save on tram tickets, I stopped eating and just bought myself rolls and drank water from the mains. That’s what I did throughout the whole week, to bring that money back again. I had a five-hundred-crown banknote and some change, and I spent the change and brought the banknote back home.”

  • “I wrote a text against it, against that third or second or however-many culture. Because that was no music culture. To make Charlie Soukup, who wrote one funny song, into some kind of protest singer, seems to me, really, to be a falsification of history. Those are all myth-makers, who embellish history in some way. It was interesting, it was good that it was, but now this opinion, this as-if second music culture, or second culture overall, is the basis of that film [Phenomenon] Underground that they’re filming or have just filmed. I think it’s all a gross distortion. That it really wasn’t like that. That it’s a fairy tale, a new mythology. [Q: That it’s created in retrospect?] Yes, that it is like some new Manuscripts [the Manuscripts from Zelená Hora and Dvůr Králové are faux-ancient Slavic mythological texts that were long considered authentic historical culture in 19th-century Czechoslovakia - transl.], which also embellished our Czech society in a way that was only imaginary, they were only myths. These are also myths.”

  • “I think I’m becoming all the more of a solitaire. I probably felt the least lonely in the Sixties, when there were plenty of people around, and lots of people went to see Nový Svět, and I knew a lot of people, but I think that the Seventies and Eighties were already marked with a certain degree of solitude. Perhaps the greatest solitude was in the Nineties, when I sometimes felt that even the good artists who came to the academy, that they kind of wanted the academy to be the way it was before, except that they were sitting up the top instead of the ones before them. I felt that was a bit unfair, so I’d say that perhaps the greatest feeling of loneliness was paradoxically back then in the Nineties.”

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    Praha, 09.04.2015

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“The Milan Knížák clan”

76e85d580f42d9eeae4e638e1712c9c4.jpg (historic)
Milan Knížák
photo: natáčení ED

Prof. Milan Knížák, DrA., was born on the 19th of April 1940 in Pilsen, he grew up in Blovice. In the summer of 1945 his parents moved to Mariánské Lázně, where his father worked as a teacher and his mother as a finance manager. He attended an extended primary school in Plané u Mariánských Lázní, after graduating in 1957 he unsuccessfully applied to study at the Academy of Fine Arts (AFA) in Prague, after which he briefly studied at the University of Pedagogics. In 1958, he was accepted to the AFA preparatory course, but he was expelled a year later.After completing his compulsory military service, he worked as a cleaner. Since the early 1960’s, he has devoted himself to art, especially to  happenings and action art. From years 1963-1964, he studied at AFA, but he did not complete his degree. From 1965, he was a member of the Union of Fine Artists, from 1966 he was noted by State Security as a hostile figure. On an invitation by the group Fluxus, he spent the years 1968-1970 in the United States of America (lectures, happenings). From the early 1970’s, he was under State Security surveillance; he also stood trial.In 1974, he obtained a one-year scholarship from the Berlin foundation DAAD, which he did not until five years later, from 1979-1980. In the 1980’s, he underwent several study stays in Germany. From 1990-1997, he held the position of rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, from 1999 to 2011 he was director of the National Gallery in Prague. He lectures at universities and organizes both individual and group exhibitions at home and abroad, he has published several books. Prof. Milan Knížák lives in Prague.