Koller's alien ideas have landed

Art January 17, 2013 00:00


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The Slovakian artist's concepts were certainly 'out there'. Now Messy Project Space shares them with Bangkok

The Messy Project Space, a gallery of sorts on Tanao Road run by artists, has been cleaned up ready for a UFO landing. The walls are now devoid of the usual clutter of paintings, prints and posters and the art books on the shelves and hanging T-shirts for sale have been stashed away.

Unfortunately it’s not an actual extraterrestrial that’s coming in for a landing, but something almost as interesting – “Operation UFO”, an exhibition of work by the late Slovakian artist Julius Koller.

In his case, UFO stood for “Universal-cultural Futurological Operation”. It still sounds out-of-this-world, but Koller was in fact a champion of ordinariness, which he recognised as sublime.

And, by way of a warm greeting from the human race, everyone gets to play an utterly normal game of ping-pong when the show opens tomorrow at 6pm.

Koller (1939-2007) was the subject of the retrospective exhibition “Mini-concepts/Maxi-ideas” at the GB Agency in Paris last June, a show that also featured Chitti Kasemkitvatana as a guest artist, with his typographically challenging array “monument / [...] / memor(y)ialE (over)”.

Meanwhile both Chitti and Phatchaya Phinthong, with whom he founded Messy, were showing work in “Mount Fuji Doesn’t Exist” at Paris’ Le Plateau gallery.

Now Chitti and Phatchaya Phinthong have brought Koller back to Thailand with them, devoting their two-storey gallery to the influential Slovakian.

“Operation UFO” will not be as vast as the Paris retrospective, but viewers can expect to get the same kind of experience. Three prominent works have been installed in a site-specific context.

The table tennis is on the ground floor, where “JK Ping Pong Club (UFO)” – which Koller developed from 1970 to 2007 – is ready for action. In Space 1/2 on the upstairs mezzanine is his 1992 work “Escape of Physical Object (UFO)”.

The second-floor studio is given over to “Galeria Ganku” from 1971, which Koller originally set up on Slovakia’s Mount Ganek. The hilltop “gallery” has “Flying Cultural Situation (UFO)”, a 1983 black-and-white portrait of the artist and his son taken by Koller’s partner in life, Kveta Fulierova.

Koller was one of those artists who constantly question the nature of art. He proposed ideas about “non-work”, “anti-art” and “trash art”. And he developed forms of art based on games that facilitated jumping between real life and the art of the imagination.

His “anti-happenings” turned mundane public events into cultural milestones. Evolved from the mind-tripping counterculture “happenings” of the 1960s, Koller’s anti-happenings stayed focused on real objects and everyday banality.

He didn’t seek out new art so much as new ways of living, advocating a fresh approach to creativity, with the aim of fostering a more humanistic culture. To that end he issued manifestos that, with his art projects and public actions, mocked Eastern European communism in a bid to alter reality.

Koller’s work and his concepts – like the anti-happening and the Universal-cultural Futurological Operation – are attracting growing interest among a broader art public, his pieces turning up in major collections and museums.


- Yes, there’s an actual table tennis tournament at the show’s opening tomorrow from 6 to 9pm. The exhibition continues until February 18.

- Messy is at 194 Tanao Road near the Kok Wua intersection. The gallery is normally open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 7pm.

- Find out more at www.MessySky.com.