Milan Mikuláštík occupies a very particular place on the art scene in the Czech Republic. He covers a wide range of activities ranging from individual art production, via projects within the MINA group and the art activist group Guma Guar, to curatorial activities at the NoD and NTK galleries. One should also not overlook his politics, which have had a great influence on all the activities referred to.
In his artistic activities we can follow a development from the resolution of formal problems to a politically aware critical approach to the problems of this world. Behind its seemingly pure abstraction the cycle Placebo (1995) conceals enlarged fragments of visually modified drug packaging. The feigned indifference of form hides a reference to its significance, namely the visual discourse of the packages as a placebo representing the functionality of their content. This early work well illustrates the artist’s understanding of artistic form as deeply permeated by ideological and political structures. In Mikuláštík’s work of the second half of the 1990s, play and the visual qualities of games are utilised symbolically in order to comment on a highly ideological political view of the world. Works such as the video Polit-bio (1996) and Chessball (1998) comment on global power games using a football and chess pieces. In the first case the game involves the free movement of the ball with figures of world dictators, while in the latter case Mikuláštík presents a quasi-functional game in which a player can play global war chess on the spherical surface of a football.
During this period Mikuláštík collaborated with Jan Nálevka in the group MINA (from 1995, see entry), and this continued though with increasingly large breaks after 2000. From 2003 onwards his activities as part of the Guma Guar group take centre stage (see entry). This group originally came into being as a consequence of cooperation on audiovisual productions of electronic music with Daniel Vlček and Richard Bakeš. However, it soon became a platform for the realisation of gallery projects, expanding in the spirit of some of Mikuláštík’s works (e.g. Peace ltd., 2002–2003). The group’s activities aim to provoke by means of visual appeal. The subversive game that the artists play with the viewers within the framework of a criticism of current political affairs, such as the war in Iraq, represent a natural follow-on from the ludic elements of Mikuláštík’s work during the latter half of the 1990s. The political radicalisation, which unlike previous structural commentaries lends the work a clear ideological viewpoint, is a clear shift.
The work he produced in these two art groups is an integral part of Mikuláštík’s individual activities. However, in his solo work he inclines more to a “formal” conception, where similarly to Placebo referred to above there is a fundamental tension between politically encoded content and aesthetic form. Of his most recent works Corrupted Bus Stop (2014) is worth mentioning, in which Mikuláštík visually disrupts the discourse of public advertising and shifts the object of a bus stop in the direction of appropriated abstract object. With Michal Panoch he organised the exhibition CargoCulture (2011), in which he developed the anthropological phenomenon of the cargo cult with implied criticism of a visually consumerist society yet set within the framework of his own creative logic of a working artistic solution.
The curatorial work that Mikuláštík has devoted himself to since 2008, when he became curator of Gallery NoD, is bound up with his creative activities. After several politically charged projects at Gallery NoD, he continues his curatorial activities at Gallery NTK, where most of his projects involve more generally understood questions relating to the world of contemporary art, such as his favourite themes of play and the question of architecture and art, heterotopic sites, etc. Mikuláštík can undoubtedly be included amongst the most prominent figures in critical art in the first decade of this century and one of the most universal creative personalities operating on the art scene.