“It’s going to be a little strange, like a school reunion,” laughs AA Bronson. “Though in Toronto, it’s more like being the returning queen of the prom.”
Bronson is right that it’s no small deal that a retrospective exhibition of his former queer art collective, General Idea, is coming to the Art Gallery of Ontario this month.
There hasn’t been a retrospective show of this scale until now. The exhibition premiered in January 2011 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and was slightly expanded for its Toronto debut.
The show is organized around five consistent themes of the group’s oeuvre: “the artist, glamour and the creative process”; “mass culture”; “architects/archaeologists”; “sex and reality”; and “AIDS.”
“My main goal was to give a real survey of General Idea, the most complete view and understanding of them as possible,” says the show’s curator, Frédéric Bonnet. “That means showing all the aspects of their work, and that’s why I absolutely never considered doing a chronological show.”
This thematic organization is certainly loyal to General Idea’s legacy, which is more of a flexible web of identities than one cohesive character, playfully chipping away at traditional conceptions of the media, the self and the public. In short, the exhibition must be just as queer as General Idea itself.
“I think it works really well,” says Bronson. “I never would have thought of doing it that way myself. That’s part of what I like about the show.”
Haute Culture features some of the group’s most famous and controversial works, some of which haven’t been seen since their original iterations. Some of the highlights include Mondo Cane Kama Sutra (a series of enormous day-glo depictions of sexually entangled poodles), elements of the Miss General Idea Pageant and Pavilion (including never-before-seen footage from one of the performances) and a viral smattering of AIDS logos. There is also be a temporary installation of the group’s two-metre tall AIDS sculpture on the corner of Dundas and Beverly streets.