Július Koller and Jirí Kovanda

7 June–10 September 2006

Július Koller (born 1939, working in Bratislava) and Jirí Kovanda (born 1953, working in Prague) are two artists long active on the European art scene but never before shown in Sweden. The Index exhibition focuses on the performance aspects of their art, following a tradition of employing small gestures and displacements in the common everyday; in contrast, for example, to the Vienna scene’s expressive practice during the 60s.

Central to Július Koller complex art is the concept of the sign, most apparent in his foremost emblem, the question mark, but also utilised in text or combinations of letters, e.g. when the artist designates/ denominates an object or a situation, an act aiming to inscribe it in a cultural context.

The actual, non-fictive, action is often termed a ‘cultural situation’ and is also central. Koller described his earlier performance work as ‘anti-happenings’, an indication that their intention was not to be read as illusionist acts. Koller’s actions are conceptual, yet they always take place in a reality. A cultural situation does not submit to a given hierarchy but, on the contrary, may be characterised by its simplicity and commonplaceness.

Since 1970, Július Koller has utilised the letters U.F.O. in his work. U.F.O., which in its original form stood for ‘Universal-Cultural Futurological Operations’ and later took on many other meanings, arose in a political situation characterised by the ‘normalisation’ that was a consequence of the relatively free late-60s political climate. Whereas Koller’s actions continue to aim towards the actual, the denotation U.F.O. points towards a more permissive future. Originating from the same period is a series of self portraits titled: ‘U.F.O-naut J.K.’

Much of Július Koller´s work contains various references to sport. In this context, sport represents a society or a situation based on rules that apply to everyone and includes ‘fair play’. For the Index exhibition, Július Koller presents ‘Stockholm Cultural Situation’ – a performance where the artist plays table tennis with himself.

Jirí Kovanda´s performance work takes place in public space, without a stage and often without an audience. Since the mid-70s he has made small incursions into what we perceive as normal behaviour by inserting an element of uncertainty. In a performance dating from September 1977, he walks down a sidewalk in Prague and bumps into people, seemingly unintentionally. In a later work, from 2002, he spends a day at an art symposium in Bratislava in the elevator with a lock of his hair and a finger taped to the inside of the elevator. In other works, he does not feature himself but makes installations and ‘interventions’ in ephemeral material such as salt or leaves. Both artistic methods are not immediately recognisable as art and nor are they always presented as such. The observer find himself in a situation which is open to various interpretations and possibilities, a situation that could be seen as, if not political, then at least related to society and reality. Through an inexplicable addition, an interruption or displacement in the commonplace, our perceptions also become displaced. Jirí Kovanda ´s work creates a gap in existing conditions. It is fundamentally about how we choose to perceive. Through methods that are as minimal and poetic as they are down to earth, Jirí Kovanda provides an alternative view on our surroundings. Jirí Kovanda’s new work for Index, ‘Untitled’, is an intervention being performed by the artist on the roof of the art hall.

The works of Koller and Kovanda leave important contributions to a current discussion on artistic strategies and has recently been receiving an increasing attention. Besides the performance works which provide the focus of the exhibition, both artist have also worked with objects and painting. In addition to the new work by the artists, the exhibition also contains around thirty works from the mid-60s to the present day.

In conjunction with the exhibition, we are publishing on our website a texts by Georg Schöllhammer, Editor in Chief, Documenta 12 Magazine.

Our special thanks go to the Czech Centre in Stockholm, Vit Havranek, tranzit Prag, Georg Schöllhammer, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Verlag der Buchhandlung
Walter Köning and Springerin Magazine.

This is the premiere exhibition at our new art hall at Kungsbro Strand 19 in Stockholm. The opening will also feature our new graphic profile designed by Otto Degerman and Lina Åberg.