In 1989 Slovak artist Július Koller
produced a self-portrait in which he holds before his face the catalog for the celebrated 1981 Westkunst exhibition at the Rheinhallen, Cologne. The work is part of his series U.F.O.-naut J.K., realized from 1970 until Koller’s death in 2007. The work is the result of an annual photographic action in which the artist produced a single image capturing, in his words, the “process of the transformation of the head (portrait) of J.K. expressing a personal cultural situation.” The meaning of the acronym U.F.O. is multilayered and changeable in Koller’s practice; in this series it is understood as “universal futurological orientation.” Through this action, Koller sought a way to condense the complexity of social circumstances in then Czechoslovakia with but one gesture, and to poetically and politically circumvent the network of various impasses of the republic’s totalitarian reality. Given that this particular U.F.O.-naut J.K. was created at the point when the Cold War ended, the work seems to suggest that the fault lines evidencing the divisions between the art produced in the West and elsewhere represented by the Westkunst project were a fallacy, thereby communicating a desire to orient the future differently.