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General Idea Editions

June 17, 2005 - June 17, 2005

Organized and circulated by the Blackwood Gallery, this exhibition is the first comprehensive overview of General Idea’s editions to tour across Canada and internationally. Having come to international attention for their incisive interventions in the contemporary media environment, General Idea perfected the principle of inhabiting forms of media and contemporary culture and bending them to meet their own needs.

General Idea was formed by Jorge Zontal, Felix Partz, and AA Bronson in 1969, when they converged in Toronto. Having already changed their own names, they abandoned the model of the single solitary artist to slip into the anonymity of a corporate entity whose various entangled working relationships would become its politics. Drawing on the literary, music and theatre scene as well as diverse intellectual histories (from Nietzsche to Claude L?vi Strauss, Roland Barthes, Marshall McLuhan, and William Burroughs among others), General Idea quickly began to produce work in a broad if not dizzying variety of media. Their work includes everything from performance, video installation, publications and conceptual architecture to photography works and a seemingly infinite array of edition-based projects. The proliferation of their artistic modes alone signaled the site of their interest: the unprecedented burgeoning of the culture industry in the late 20th century.

General Idea’s operations presciently and swiftly took shape in the form of a set of succinct, ready-made forms. Drawn from the vortex of the culture industry, they can be traced through the history presented in this exhibition. The earliest works, introduced by General Idea in the 60s and early 70s, stem from everyday promotional culture: the business card, the press release and the magazine. These evolved into intensely colourful messaging forms ? from pins, posters and balloons to the massively disseminated AIDS logo of the late 80s and early 90s. From the beginning, editioned projects were central to General Idea’s media-conscious “viral” undertakings. At the same time, these were means of generating a participatory culture. Implying a democratization of the means of production vis-?-vis representations, they became tools for forming collaborative interests along underground lines of desire and dissent.

The editions are the chief means by which General Idea carried out their project of injecting images into the cultural mainstream. They are also key to an understanding of General Idea’s ironic and critical analysis of the art business, the museum as a commercial enterprise, and the role of both the audience and the media in our cultural environment.

General Idea’s work has always focused on the link between the making of art and its dissemination in the wider marketplace. While the work offered new ways to examine and allegorically treat the idea of art, it also represented a response to art’s altered condition within contemporary commercial culture.

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