Going Viral The Vancouver-born, Berlin-based artist and former member of Canadian activist group
General Idea discusses AIDS activism, virality, healing and atonement.
AA Bronson interviewed by Dominic Johnson
AA Bronson and Ryan Brewer, Blue, 2012
Dominic Johnson: We’re in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown. I’m in London, you’re in Berlin. How are you coping? AA Bronson: Maybe because I’m an old man, my life hasn’t changed very much. I sit at home and I work. But I have to be careful, of course. I’m 73 and I have chronic respiratory problems. There’s a level of anxiety that I’m aware of in my day-to-day consciousness. The people who are going to die tend to be the marginalised communities: older folk, poor people, people of colour or queer communities. Being here in Germany, we’re so safe in comparison, because the healthcare system is good. I don’t know anybody in Germany who’s sick. All the people I know who are sick are in the US. The art world has been immediately affected by the pandemic in terms of the withdrawal of many artists’ livelihoods, the closure of galleries and museums, the postponement of exhibitions and cancellations too. Your exhibition of General Idea works at Mitchell-Innes & Nash is up and was due to open earlier this month, but has it been postponed?
Well, it’s not actually installed. I said to Lucy Mitchell-Innes that it could be like the 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant, a mythical event that never happened. Everybody already knows about the exhibition, and it has a beautiful catalogue, so I said, if you don’t want to install it, don’t worry about it. I’m OK with that. They’re playing with the idea of opening in September. I don’t know if it will be possible by then, especially in New York. I think New York is going to be a battlefield for quite some time. The work you planned to show in New York centres on the ‘Mondo Cane Kama Sutra’ series and other poodle works by General Idea from the 1980s. In FILE magazine in 1983, General Idea stated, ‘Note the poodle, banal and effete … its wit, pampered presence, ornamental physique; its eagerness for affection and affectation,’ and so on. This strikes me as playing with clichés about both gay men and artists. In 1980, a wave of new painters had appeared: Enzo Cucchi, Francesco Clemente and Rainer Fetting, for example. Suddenly galleries wanted to show
Art Monthly no. 436, May 2020