If I know that something unknown transcends me, I cease to be merely a ‘human ape’, but am also a human extra-terrestrial

An afternoon of talks and performance presented by the P.I.N.G. P.O.N.G. Society

Alan Currall | Daniel Grúň (Július Koller Society) | Internet | Rob Kennedy | Catherine Payton | An Endless Supply

22 May 2013, 3pm
Lecture Room One, Minto House Edinburgh University,
20 Chambers Street, EH1 1LA

On the 21st of May in anticipation of the event we published this statement:

Rhubaba and The P.I.N.G. P.O.N.G. Society have assembled a collection of talks and performances for If I know that something unknown transcends me, I cease to be merely a ‘human-ape’, but am also a human extra-terrestrial, that orbits the work of the artist Július Koller and emerges out of two exhibitions that took place last year at Rhubaba Gallery and Studios.[1] The title for the afternoon is taken from a conversation between Koller and Hans Ulrich Obrist[2], in which Koller states: I tried to resolve the discrepancy between Utopia and real life. If I know that something unknown transcends me I cease to be merely a ‘human-ape’, but am also a human extra-terrestrial.

For Koller, identifying as or metamorphosing into a human extra-terrestrial, in the series of works that adopt the title U.F.O. (Universal-Cultural Futurological Operations) was a means of enabling free communication under adverse conditions. Within the Socialist context of Czechoslovakia and the period of ‘normalisation’, during which time ‘exchange and communication were a threat to the ruling party,’[3] fictive identities, para-institutions and games created a parallel space of possibility.

If I know… aims to explore why Koller’s strategies seem so urgent today. His practices are not a direct source of inspiration for all the works presented, however we sense that his embrace of the unknown and interest in ‘utopia with a question mark’ is something to cling on to. So let us begin with some questions (ones that may not be answered at all during the afternoon, but which have informed our own thinking in the conception of this project):

What is the use in, and how do we maintain, a belief in the irrational, paranormal or unknown? In what ways can fictive institutions and identities serve to facilitate and democratise communication? Is the example of Koller, and his socio-political contexts, translatable to our contemporary moment?

[1] We are all U.F.O.-nauts and Semi[2] Conversation between Július Koller and Hans Ulrich Obrist in Kathrin Rhomberg (ed.), Július Koller: Univerzalana Futurologicke Operacie, exhibition catalogue, Kolnischer Kunstverein, Cologne 2003, p.145[3] Marian Mezzone, Drawing Conceptual Lessons from 1968, Third Text, Vol.23, Issue 1, January 2009, p.80