Public / Counterpublic
19 06 21
05 09 21
The question of the mediatised image and its normative effect on the perception of “world” or “reality” is central to the work of John Miller (*1954, lives in New York and Berlin). Emerging from the environment of the so-called “Picture Generation”, with companions such as Mike Kelley or Jim Shaw, his post-conceptual approach encompasses sculpture, painting, photography and video. Miller is also active as a musician and art critic, and since 2000 he has been a professor at Barnard College, Columbia University New York.
Even in one of his earliest works, “Contradictory Statements” (1979), central aspects of his oeuvre emerge: the indispensability of contradictions that must be socially negotiated, as well as the image of the world and society that is only visible at all in the media or commodified distortion. The current ubiquitous digitalisation has been further accelerated under the influence of the pandemic and is rapidly changing forms of the public sphere. In all areas of society, we are increasingly experiencing a decline in the willingness to perceive an opinion that differs from one’s own and to enter into dialogue. This puts fundamental democratic principles at risk. Miller not only observes the lines of conflict that arise around contradictions with precision and humorous poetry, but he also uses them as an artistic means.
In addition to the historical documentation of the work developed as a performance, the recent work “Auto Fiction” (2021) is presented, as well as a series of recent video works (“Free Association”, 2020, “Walking in the City”, 2017, “In the Middle”, 2016, “Reconstructing a Public Sphere”, 2015), which often use the form of a common Power Point presentation. By colliding image and speech sequences in variously meandering rhythms with often conflicting content, Miller probes the changes in the meaning and form of the public sphere in urban city space. Topics such as 9/11, the refugee crisis or the lockdown become evident, and the personal experiences and emotions of the artist himself as well as the position of the viewers become virulent. The focus is on antagonistic poles: “Right and wrong is a matter of context”, according to a passage in the work “Primary Structures” (2017). This is by no means a matter of relativisation, but rather of the inescapable entanglements in contradictions, both of the viewers and of the author himself. The filmic works are complemented by works from the series “Social Portraits” and “In the Middle of the Day” (1994 to the present). These visual works also bear witness to the artist’s great powers of observation, with which he takes an unagitated but precise look at the organisational forms of communal life.
John Miller’s work has been presented in numerous solo exhibitions, including “An Elixir of Immortality”, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin (2020), “I Stand, I fall”, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, Kunsthalle Zurich (2012), “In the Middle of the Day”, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva (2004), “Parallel Economies”, Magasin Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble (1999). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including the New Museum, New York, CAPC Musée D’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid. His work was included in the Whitney Biennial in 1991 and the Gwangju Biennial in 2010. In 2011, Miller was awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne.