Saturday, February 17, 2007

AA Bronson

I was pleasantly surprised with the AA Bronson's lecture at UofG last week. Immediately recognizable by his trademark beard, he was soft spoken and articulate. With an eager audience in front of him, I was a little curious to see how he would summarize his career, especially given his history.

(History, you ask? What history? Diana Nemiroff wrote a great overview on the Canada Council site, but let me see if I can give you a quick low-down.) After graduating from architecture school, Bronson, along with Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, co-founded General Idea, a collective that created mass media art while addressing issues of identity, sexuality, and culture. Think Andy Warhol meets Marcel Duchamp with a few pink poodles thrown in for colour. Their stylized art campaigns sprang up in cities world wide, and as the trio hid behind the corporate identity of "General Idea", the AIDS crisis grew, eventually claiming the lives of both Felix and Jorge in 1994. After spending 25 years creating a mythical singleness of themselves, Bronson was forced to begin again, without his identity or partners beside him. I remember viewing the "One Year of AZT" installation at the Power Plant and being overcome by the scale of the work. Sickness can fill up a room, especially when it's an illness of that magnitude.

Bronson finally began to reclaim his life as an artist in 1998, and now incorporates his training as a healer into his exhibits. Some of it is a little bit out there, but I'm a straight girl living in Guelph, so what the heck do I know? What's interesting to me is how the question of 'identity' continues to follow him, and how he addresses it from such a different approach.

(if there are any New Yorkers who received a butt massage from AA last month, drop me a line and let me know how it went)

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