John Miller

Jablonka Galerie

Rock sucks, disco sucks, and brown slime over everything.

This was John Miller’s third exhibition during the year he just spent in Germany, a period that the catalogue for one of the earlier exhibitions, at the DAAD space in Berlin, excellently documents. The book offers a variety of models for considering Miller and his trademark brown: the reinvigoration of the dandy, campiness, the combination of verbal and visual pranks, and a stance of correct yet critical behavior. In The Office Party and the Communist Party, 1991, the critic finally finds a place among all Miller’s crusty brown objects. In a terrible joke, the piece deals with food, specifically the food department of the West Berlin department store KaDeWe: Miller’s accumulation of food functions as a satirical comment and also as an allegory for the German economic situation today.

I’d really like to see an exhibition of Miller’s works in a dirty little hole—simply out of visual curiosity. For Miller that would be too coquettish, but my favorite pieces here tend in that direction. Exaggerating his own work, he overloads his own chosen medium with meaning. In Restless Stillness, 1991, an almost life-size figure (perhaps female) lies on the floor in a picaresque landscape, like Gulliver, but partially buried and covered in plants. Transylvania Choo-Choo, 1992, turns the political allegory of The Office Party and the Communist Party into a fuck-guzzle-and-die story.

The experience of these pieces draws me in. Miller allows for this, without pinning himself down or falling into a reductive simplicity. There is always something that can be expressed experimentally, as the catalogue text by Dennis Cooper and Casey McKinney proves. Cooper wrote the introduction, in which he reasons that “rather than posit a sincere if necessarily tentative fan letter, I decided to consult someone whose interest in art is completely uncolored by the opinions that created and maintained the art world hierarchy now in collapse.” With that, he gives the book over to McKinney.

In discussing Miller’s art, one always runs the risk of degenerating into the anecdotal. But this is necessary here, even when at the end the anecdote dries as a comforting slime leaving behind only a headache—a hangover even for the nondrinkers.

Jutta Koether

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.