Critics’ Picks

View of  “OPERATION U.F.O.,” 2013.

View of “OPERATION U.F.O.,” 2013.


Július Koller

Messy Sky / Cloud
418 Maitri Chit Road, Pomprab District
January 18–February 28, 2013

The late Slovak artist Július Koller investigated the utopian possibilities of art and developed his own conceptual vocabulary of symbols, ideas, and interventions—embracing the question mark, “anti-happenings,” and Ping-Pong. This three-floor exhibition of Koller’s work features documentation of some of the most significant long-term projects he created and performed during the last four decades of his life: J.K. Ping-Pong Club (U.F.O.), 1970–2007; Galeria Ganku, 1971–89; and work connected to his flexible concept of “Universal-Cultural Futurological Operation”—his first of many uses of the initials “U.F.O.” to describe cultural situations designed less to break new artistic ground than to open up social and imaginative potential.

On the top floor, four ink-jet reproductions of color Xeroxes from Koller’s Galeria Ganku are affixed to a wall of windows facing building tops and sky—images of mountains and climbing equipment. Confronting the absence of private galleries in Czechoslovakia in 1971, Koller founded the fictive gallery, and directed it until 1989. Located on a flat surface on the Ganek peak of the High Tatras Mountains, the gallery, in Koller’s words, “symbolized an encounter of the earthly with the unearthly. The natural high-mountain environment become[s] a psychological cultural space—a medium (between the Earth and the Heaven) where a new artistic thinking can shoot up.” By hanging these images at the peak of their own space, the Messy Project collective playfully announces solidarity and affinity with Koller, highlighting the durability of his conceptual language and engaging in a poetics of intersubjective curation.

Messy Project Space, founded by a group of local artists, is a mobile and shape-shifting endeavor. A Ping-Pong table dominates the main, entry-level space, where mini-Polaroids of visitors at play in the gallery join photos from Koller’s own Ping-Pong performances. This show is the final one in the current location (which was previously occupied by Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Gallery Ver), and as it presents Koller’s oeuvre it simultaneously narrates Messy’s own evolution. Near the front door, an issue of Messy Sky Magazine (bound in a custom-fitted wooden spine) hangs—another collaboration, this one with Le Plateau in Paris. It was the first object exhibited in the current space, and now it is one of the last.