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Július Koller

Július Koller was born in 1939 in Piestany, he died in Bratislava in 2007.

Engagement rather than Arrangement. The experimental work of Julius Koller for a new conception of aesthetic space since the 1960s.

Bratislava, around 1962: the beginnings of a mutation in the Slovaque art scene: the modernist gesture reorients itself: kinetic objects, architectural utopias, progressive ideas linked to science and technology, Tachiste painting…

Against the fantasies of the all-powerful, cynical, socialist state apparatus and its defenders and against the formalist therapeutic efforts of the prevailing modernism, the new imperative is to propose a direct experience of the reality of the work of art. This is the premise that Julius Koller will go on to develop at art school, and which he has, to this day, continued to refine. The rigour, perseverance and singularity of his work makes it one of the most experimental and most consequential of contemporary European art, the only comparable antecedent being perhaps the universe of a Marcel Broodthaers.

While still a student Koller was already critically opposed to the modernist principles of order associated with the political and cultural agitation in the Czechoslovakia of the early 60s. (At the time he was painting homogenous urban landscapes, compact analyses of space tending towards the concrete). He shared this refusal of modernist pathos with some of his fellow artists such as those of the Happsoc Group gathered around Z.Kostrova, or with Stano Filko and Alexander Mlynarczykwho who had, from 1964 onwards, developped a species of Happenings (of objects) adapted to the local context. But their euphoric idea that everything could be art, that everything could be included in the system of art was reversed in the work of the young Koller. In 1965, the very year in which the manifesto of the Happsoc Group appeared, Koller published his own polemic: Anti-Happening (System of Subjective Objectivity)”. Contrary to the Happening that is a “way of putting into practice an artistic action”, the Anti-Happening, according to Koller, aims at “a cultural reformation of the subject, of consciousness, of the environment and the real world”.

In a formulation that could have also been decisive for the Situationist International, Koller suggests that a poetic impetus limited to a textual existence cannot develop all the potential of its radical anti-hegemonic force. The Anti-Happening presents actions or conceptual objects, and in doing so creates cultural situations. Every spectator – real or presumed – can, in some way, behave in a manner intentionally opposed to the cultural situation created by this act of designation.

The strategy allows Koller to extend this operation to different kinds of practices. In 1965 he proposes the first textual works on paper, their existence in several editions indicating the mental space of the Anti-Happenings. And already by 1967-68, the first images: the artist uses white polymer paint instead of oil, and for the first time there appears what will later become the mutant symbol of Koller’s designatory attitudes, deployed on various kinds of supports and in different combinations, namely the question mark. These images will henceforth be called “Anti-Images”. Koller renounces all forms of technical mastery. The Anti-Images have the character of amateur works, conforming to the dictum: “to engage (oneself) rather than to arrange”. For Koller what is at stake is not pure painting but rather the elaboration of an iconic and semiotic typology of the textual corpus.

In 1970, two years after the end of the Prague Spring, Koller introduces, on the occasion of another manifesto, a new conceptual field in his work in the form of an acronym: U.F.O. In this text – the starting point of what will prove to be, in the more than thirty years to follow, the principal body of work that he will develop under the rubric “Universal-Cultural Futurological Operations” (U.F.O.) – Koller insists again on the realist and anti-illusionist approach of the Anti-Happenings and the Anti-Images. The U.F.O. opens up a complex space of references and relations between the acts of designation and their possibilities of mutation. In diverse works made subsequently the “O” of UFO comes to stand in for very different words: Object, Ornament, Orientation, Observation, Opustane Obrazu (liberation of the image), Otaznik (question marks), etc. The “F” of U.F.O mutates into Functional, Folkloric, Factographic (sic), F(ph)ilosophic, Fantastic, Flyer, etc.

In 1970 Koller installs, for the duration of a month, a Table Tennis Club in the private space of the “Youth Gallery” in Bratislava: visitors could play if they wished. Like his earlier interventions – in the preceding year, for example, he had traced with his hand a question mark on the ground of a tennis court and had worked with chalk and a machine for tracing lines (“Contact”, 1969) – this act of transformation was conceived as an active rather than passive representation whose impetus was existential.

During these years the symbol of infinity increasingly makes its appearance in the textual works along with the question marks and signs of negation. Umenie (art) becomes UmeNie (never again). Unending Möbius strips: circular, looped, or pressed into triangles ; spirals and Ying-Yang symbols that represent the U.F.O. with greater force than auto-referential designation. Koller presents performative acts of equilibrium, “levellings” in which, for example, he subordinates his body to the scale of the guide marks of the houses of the old city of Bratislava.

Julius Koller’s work must be interpreted from a contemporary point of view in keeping with the fact that a significant amount of art made in the late 60s and the 70s eludes the habitual categories.Already in 1991 Aurel Hrabusicky, in a catalogue essay, asserted that one cannot talk of the multi-faceted work of Koller in terms of conceptualism and must consider it rather as a reflexive contextual aesthetic practice, interwoven with multiple references, a practice that had almost no equivalent on either side of the Iron Curtain. The works of the mid 60s, the “Anti-Images”, the “Texttextiles”, or, the U.F.O.s of the early 70s, redefined aesthetic experience in terms of a multiplicity of non-specialist ways of approaching the question: What is most truly and authentically “modern”?

After 1972 Koller’s actions appear to have taken a more melancholy cast but they are not the less rigourous for that reason.

As strange and clownish as some of his actions might occasionally appear, all of them nevertheless create a direct image of time that maintains the power of differentiation. Koller never works in the framework of the so-called grand themes related to the body, namely, pain, sexuality, death, injury, extreme psychological states resulting from abandonment. He intervenes rather within the frontiers imposed by everyday models of order and control. He demonstrates the imperative that art decipher a more profound truth about us, about our bodies and our culture, even as he replaces art by performative acts: engagement rather than arrangement.

Georg Schoellhammer

This is an abbreviated version of an essay of the same title that appeared in the catalogue accompanying the first retrospective of Julius Koller in Europe organised by Roman Ondak at the Kunstverein in Cologne in 2003.

Květoslava Fulierová and Július Koller, Echo

Květoslava Fulierová and Július Koller
gb agency, Paris
Exhibition from March 11 - May 30, 2020

Activity of Matter

Group show
gb agency, Paris
From November 30th 2019 to January 11th, 2020

Pierre Bal-Blanc, Collective Exhibition for a Single Body

Collective Exhibition
gb agency, Paris
Exhibition from Oct 12 to Nov 5, 2019

Július Koller, 1969

A solo show by Július Koller
gb agency, Paris
From May 11 to July 20, 2019

Julius Koller at Arco

Solo exhibition
Arco. Ifema, feria de Madrid
February 22 - 25, 2018

Július Koller: A. for Atlantis

A solo exhibition by Július Koller
gb agency
From 31 January to 21 March 2015

Frieze, New York, 2014

Frieze Art Fair
New York
May 9-12 2014

Július Koller, Jiří Kovanda, Tamás St. Turba. New Museum, New York

Group exhibition
New Museum, New York
January 24 – April 13 2014

Parallel Forms

Group exhibition
gb agency
January 11 - February 22, 2014

Inventing a Future

Inventing a Future, group exhibition
gb agency
January 26 - March 13, 2013

Július Koller: Mini-Concepts / Maxi-ideas

Solo exhibition
gb gallery
from June 2 to July 21, 2012

Both before and after

Group show
gb agency
7 May to 3 July 2010

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Group exhibition
gb agency
27 March to 30 April 2010

Nord, Nord-Ouest

Group show
gb agency
From June 25 to July 25, 2009

Július Koller: Space is The Place

A solo show by Július Koller
gb agency
From June 2 to July 21, 2007


Group exhibition
gb agency
13 September to 8 November 2003

Exhibitions (solo) catalogues and books:

Július Koller: Science-Fiction Retrospective, ovenska narodna galeria, Bratislava. Texts by Petra Hanakova, Katarina Bajcurova, Kvetoslava Fulierova, Aurel Hrabusicky, Alexandra Kusa, Georg Schollhammer
Július Koller: Univerzálne Futurologické Operácie, Kolnischer KunstvereinCatalogue, edited by Kathrin Romberg, Roman Ondak, 248 pages, with 185 illustrations
Essays by Georg Schöllhammer and Vít Havránek. Conversations with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Roman Ondak, text in German, English and Slovak. Published by Verlag Walter König, Cologne
Július Koller: Sondy (Probes), Galeria sucasneho umenia Slovenskj narodnej galerie

Exhibitions (collective) catalogues and books :

Index / Assembly (Index), de Appel arts centre
Fluxus East, Fluxus Networks in Central Eastern Europe, with texts by: Eric Andersen, Andrea Bátorová, György Galántai, Milan Knížák, Vytautas Landsbergis, Pavlína Morganová, Luiza Nader, Maria Anna Potocka, Tamás St. Auby, Petra Stegmann, Emmett Williams, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, 2010
Promises of the Past, A Discontinuous History of Art in Former Eastern Europe, with text by Vit Havránek, Joanna Mytkowska, Slavoj Zizek, Natasa Petresin, Christine Macel, Igor Zabel. MNAM, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Published by JRP | Ringier
Situation (Documents of Contemporary Art), with text by Claire Doherty, MIT Press, Whitechapel Gallery
Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art, with texts by Francesco Manacorda, Lydia Yee and Tom McCarthy, Barbican Art Gallery, London
The Book of Intentions, F.R. DAVID, de Appel Arts Centre
From the scene to the clandestine. Insternational Activities of Artists on the unofficial Slovak Scene 1973 - 1976 text by Bartosova Zuzana
Unofficial Slovak Art Scene (1973-1976), Normalization of Artistic Life, Artistic Discourse
Regards sur l’art de l’autre Europe: l’art contemporain est-européen text by Olivier Vargin, L’Harmattan, Paris
Charley n° 05, Les Presses du Reel
Documenta 12 Magazine #3 - Education, Documenta 12
East Art Map, edited by IRWIN, Afterall Books
Frieze Projects, series of publications recording the commissions and talks at Frieze Art Fair
KONTAKT…works from the collection of Erste Bank Group, Exhibition Catalogue, German/English, 2006, Publisher Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien
Cordially Invited, BAK - basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht
Collected Views from East or West, Generali Foundation
De ma fenêtre, des artistes et leurs territoires…with Texts by Maria Anna Potocka, Maria Morzuch, Kathrin Rhomberg, Georg Schoellhammer, ENSBA, Paris
Passage d’Europe: réalités, références : un certain regard sur l’art d’Europe centrale et orientale, Musée d’art moderne Saint-Etienne
Now What? Dreaming a better world in six parts, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht
Ausgeträumt…with contributions of Egon Bondy, Rike Frank, Boris Groys, Hakan Gürses, Matthias Herrmann, Reni Hofmüller, Julius Koller, Joanna Mytkowska, Diana Nenadic, Oswald Oberhuber, Roman Ondak, Carola Platzek, Kathrin Rhomberg, Ruth Sonderegger, Branka Stipancic, Friedrich Tietjen, Daniela Hammer-Tugendhat, Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Igor Zabel, Luise Ziaja. Secession, Wien
Art Action 1958 - 1998, Inter Art Actuel et Le Lieu, Centre en Art Actuel, Quebec
Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s, Queens Museum of Art
Face à l’histoire,1933-1996 : l’artiste moderne devant l’événement historique, text by Jean-Paul Ameline, MNAM, Centre Georges Pompidou, Flammarion
The Routes of European Culture Lodz / Bratislava / Brussels / Berlin
Works and Words, De Apple, Amsterdam

Presse (Sélection)

Le Monde, L’univers ironique et décalé des artistes de l’est, by Roxana Aximi, June 5.
Obersee Nachrichten, Vier Künstler - eine Ausstellung, 12 Marz, #39
Tagblatt, Ausstellung, Rapperwil II, seite 48, 27 March.
Zürichsee-Zeitung, Die grizchische Skulptur flieg in den Weltraum, Seite 2, 16 March
Züritipp, Frische Luft im Weltall, seite 35, 19 March
Frieze, Life Work by Jan Verwoert, # 212, March.
Ludlow 38, Jirí Kovanda & Július Koller, The Steins #7, Ludlow 38, New York.
Art 21, Nouvelles du Mont Analogue, by Loraine Dumenil, #17, Printemps.
Frieze, Július Koller 1939 - 2007, by Jan Verwoert, #111, Nov / Dec.
Untitled Tranzit: an institution without institution, by Tobi Maier, # 42, Summer.
Documenta Magazine, Július Koller, #3.
Springerin Július Koller 1939-2007, April.
Flash Art International, The Grand Tour, Július Koller, Artist Bratislava, page 76, Oct.
Le Monde, Július Koller gb agency by Emmanuelle Lequeux, 23 June.
Telerama, Július Koller : Space is the Place, 22 june.
Le Monde, Le retour des années 1970 ou le refus de l’amnésie, by Roxana Azimi, 10-11 June.
Index, Engagement instead of Arrangement. Július Koller’s Erratic Work on the Re-Conception of Aesthetic Space 1960, by Georg Schöllhammer.
Springerin, Július Koller : …in March, an old man came around, by Jiri , #2.
Artforum International, Július Koller, Kolnischer Kunstverein by Tom Holert, Jan.
Piatok, Slovenska umenie v Stanici utopie, by Maria Hrabkova, 22 Aug.
SME, Slovenské umenie sa zastavi v stanici utopia, by Ludo Petransk, 3 June.

Július Koller
One Man Anti Show, Dokumentation, Documentation, Dokumentàcia, 2017


Daniel Grúň, Kathrin Rhomberg, Georg Schöllhammer (eds.)
Mumok - Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien

Július Koller
One Man Anti Show, 2016


Daniel Grúň, Kathrin Rhomberg, Georg Schöllhammer (eds.)
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter König, Köln
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien

Július Koller
Galéria Ganku, 2014

Monographic publication

Edited by Daniel Grúň
Published by Schlebrügge.Editor, Vienna, 2014
English/Slovak, 124 pages
numerous illustrations in b/w and colour
297 x 210 mm, softcover
ISBN 978-0-9570494-3-7

Július Koller
Science-FIction Retrospective, 2010


texts by Petra Hanakova, Katarina Bajcurova, Kvetoslava Fulierova, Aurel Hrabusicky, Alexandra Kusa, Georg Schollhammer
366 pages, english/czech
© Slovenska narodna galeria, Bratislava 2010
ISBN : 978-80-8059-148-9

Július Koller
Július Koller: Univerzálne Futurologické Operácie, 2003


Catalogue, edited by Kathrin Romberg, Roman Ondak, Kolnischer Kunstverein 2003
248 pages, with 185 illustrations
Essays by Georg Schöllhammer and Vít Havránek. Conversations with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Roman Ondak,
Text in German, English and Slovak.
Published by Verlag Walter König, Cologne 2003
ISBN : 3-88375-744-6

Exhibition view, Július Koller: One Man Anti Show, mumok, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view, Július Koller: One Man Anti Show, mumok, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view, Július Koller: One Man Anti Show, mumok, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view, Július Koller: One Man Anti Show, mumok, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view, Július Koller: One Man Anti Show, mumok, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view, Július Koller: One Man Anti Show, mumok, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view, Július Koller: One Man Anti Show, mumok, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view, Július Koller: One Man Anti Show, mumok, Vienna, 2017

Exhibition view, Július Koller: A. for Atlantis, gb agency, Paris, 2015

Exhibition view, Július Koller: 1969, gb agency, Paris, 2019

Exhibition view, Július Koller: Mini-Concepts / Maxi-ideas, gb agency, Paris, 2012

Exhibition view, The Museum of Parallel Narratives, MACBA, Barcelona, 2011

Exhibition view, The Museum of Parallel Narratives, MACBA, Barcelona, 2011


Cultural Situation (U.F.O.), 2006
Cultural Situation (U.F.O.), 2006
Cultural Situation (U.F.O.), 2006
Cultural Situation (U.F.O.), 2006
Cultural Situation (U.F.O.), 2006
Cultural Situation (U.F.O., 2006
Atlantis The Blue Danube b. (U.F.O.), 2003
Tatranska, 2000
Complementary Cultural Situation, 1998
Message 1.,2.,3. (U.F.O.), 1998
Paradisiac Cultural Situation (Slovakia) (U.F.O.), 1991
Wavy Cultural Situation (U.F.O.), 1990
Conceptual Cultural Situation (U.F.O.), 1988
Mysterious Cultural Situation 1., 2. (U.F.O.), 1988
Crossing (U.F.O.), 1987
Mass Communication Cultural Situation 1.- 4. (U.F.O.), 1987
White Stop, 1985
After-Scream (U.F.O.), 1983
Tatranské Pleso, 1983
Monologic - Yoyo 1.,2. (U.F.O.), 1982
UFO-Gorgona (U.F.O.), 1982
Making Ready Made, Homage to M. Duchamp (U.F.O.), 1981
Underground (U.F.O.), 1981
Anti-Environment 1. 2. (U.F.O.), 1980
Anti-Performance (U.F.O.), 1980
Anti-Ping Pongista 3.,(U.F.O.), 1980
Anti-Communication (U.F.O.), 1979
Council Functional Object (U.F.O.), 1978
U.F.O. - Image, Anti-Image, 1978
Artistic Original Fantastic, 1977
Universal Material Culture Image, 1977
Utopic Fantastic Object, 1977
U.F.O., 1976
Universal Futurologica Notice, 1976
Underground Fantastic Organisation, Post- Communication, 1975
Ideologically Megalithic Construction, 1974
Announcement : PRAVDA Compound, 1971
Announcement : SurProfessionalism (SurArt), 1971
Announcement : Universal Futuroligical Orientation (JULIUS + KVETOSLAVA), 1971
U.F.O. Universal Fantastic Occupation, 1971
Untitled, 1971
Contact, 1969
Question Mark, 1969
Textil-Bag with Question Mark, 1969–2007
Season Ticket, Shockialism, Anti-Happening, 1968
Time/space Definition of the Psychophysical Activity of Matter 3. (Anti-Happening), 1968
Time/Space Definition of the Psychophysical Activity of Matter (Anti-Happening), 1968
Confrontation, Anti-Happening, 1967
Games 1., 2. (Anti-Happening), 1967
Games, 1967
Calculations (Junk), 1966
JUNK, 1966
Junk Collection, 1966
Junk Culture, 1966
Junk Culture, 1966
ACAD. ART., 1965