Public / Counterpublic
The question of the mediatized 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 and Jim Shaw, his post-conceptual approach encompasses sculpture, painting, photography and video. Miller is also a musician and art critic and has been a professor at Barnard College, Columbia University New York since 2000.
Even in one of his earliest works, “Contradictory Statements” (1979), central aspects of his work become apparent: the inevitability of contradictions that have to be negotiated socially, as well as the image of the world and society, which only becomes visible at all in the media or commodified distortion. The current ubiquitous digitalization 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 accept opinions that differ from our own and to enter into dialog. This puts fundamental democratic principles at risk. Miller not only observes the lines of conflict that arise around contradictions with precision and humorous poetry, he also uses them as an artistic tool.
In addition to the historical documentation of the work developed as a performance, the most recent work “Auto Fiction” (2021) will be presented, as well as a series of more 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 allowing image and language sequences to collide in differently meandering rhythms with often contradictory content, Miller explores the changes in the meaning and form of the public sphere in urban space. Themes such as 9/11, the refugee crisis and the lockdown become apparent, while the personal experiences and emotions of the artist himself as well as the position of the viewer 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 about relativization, but about the inevitable entanglements in contradictions, both of the viewer and of the author himself. The cinematic works are complemented by works from the series of “Social Portraits” and “In the Middle of the Day” (1994 to the present). These pictorial works also testify to the artist’s great powers of observation, with which he calmly but precisely focuses on the organizational forms of communal life.