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    J.K. Ping-Pong Club (U.F.O.), 1970 - 2024

    Les Abattoirs, Musée – Frac Occitanie Toulouse are pleased to present an exhibition dedicated to the Slovak artist Július Koller (1939-2007) around the project J.K. Ping-Pong Club (U.F.O.). Created in 1970 in Bratislava (Slovakia), this installation is both an object and an artistic action in the form of a ping-pong club. The J.K. Ping-Pong Club will be reactivated at Les Abattoirs, transforming the exhibition rooms for a few months into a fictitious sports club in which the public is invited to play.

    A cult figure in the post-war avant-garde on both sides of the former Iron Curtain, Július Koller held a special place in communist Czechoslovakia from the early 1960s, developing his work on the bangs of the art scene. As a young artist, he was critically engaged with the modern art scene, going against the artificiality, hypocrisy and conservatism of official political ideology.

    In reaction to the events of the Prague Spring (1968), he founded the J.K. Ping-Pong Club, abolishing the boundary between art and sport to offer an alternative space for experimentation. During this short period, the country enjoyed press freedom, free expression, freedom of movement and economic independence, in an attempt at democratic emancipation that was quickly curbed by the Russian authorities. Through the prism of play, the artist offers an offbeat reflection on the political and social situation in her country. His work sees art as a means of transforming society at a time when utopia, and in particular the socialist dream, comes up against the violence of reality.

    The J.K. Ping-Pong Club is a kind of social allegory, questioning the rules – both social and sporting – and the mechanisms of collective control, and suggesting possible new forms of social relationship. It’s one of several ways the artist has invented to replay our reality and democratically disseminate artistic ideas, using simple, inexpensive materials accessible to the general public, such as announcements, postcards, telegrams and self-adhesive labels.

    The interrogative symbol printed on the club’s rackets and pennants becomes the universal symbol of doubt, while at the same time embodying a utopian dimension inherent in the everyday life of a society transformed by communist ideology. With this work, art becomes play, challenging the public to test their ping-pong skills while rethinking our relationship with the rules that define a society. Exchanges around the game table are also a means of experimenting with a new form of interaction with art and with others. An artistic and sporting event, Koller’s poetic reinvention of the game combines therapeutic, social and political dimensions.

    The exhibition will also include a selection of paintings, photographs, collages and archives, enabling a wider exploration of the artist’s work, and in particular the U.F.O. series (Utopian Flash Operation or Opérations Futurologiques Universalo-Culturelles) to which this work belongs.

    This is a participative installation, with everyone free to play a game of ping-pong, according to their own approach to fair play.

    It’s your turn to play!

    Curator: Daniel Grúň, Director of the Július Koller Society, Bratislava

    Exhibition produced in partnership with the Július Koller Society, Bratislava (Slovakia)

    Thanks to gb agency and the Kontakt Collection, Vienna (Austria)

    © photo Cyril Boixel / les Abattoirs, Musée-Frac Occitanie Toulouse (France)