Health is an issue for each and every one of us and, as such, has shown up in artistic representations of the body throughout history. We see this concern echoed, for example, in the body assailed by illness and the ravages of epidemics like leprosy or the plague; in the vivisections of anatomy lessons; and in portraits of individuals beset by mental illness. While curative powers were attributed to certain images during the Renaissance, the art of today confronts us with scourges like AIDS and cancer; it gives us a different perspective on the world of contemporary pharmaceuticals; and it places us squarely before a body marked by suffering and, at times, by shame. Biological, neurological and medical knowledge resonate in the works brought together for this exhibition, and show how the borders between art and science are gradually becoming more porous.
Health is an issue for each and every one of us and, as such, has shown up in artistic representations of the body throughout history. We see this concern echoed, for example, in the body assailed by illness and the ravages of epidemics like leprosy or the plague; in the vivisections of anatomy lessons; and in portraits of individuals beset by mental illness. While curative powers were attributed to certain images during the Renaissance, the art of today confronts us with scourges like AIDS and cancer; it gives us a different perspective on the world of contemporary pharmaceuticals; and it places us squarely before a body marked by suffering and, at times, by shame. Biological, neurological and medical knowledge resonate in the works brought together for this exhibition, and show how the borders between art and science are gradually becoming more porous.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

One Year of AZT

One Year of AZT

General Idea
Collection of the National Gallery of Canada, purchase.
1991
1,825 units of vacuum-formed styrene with vinyl
12.7 x 31.7 x 6.3 cm each
© General Idea


One Year of AZT, a monumental installation comprising 1,825 capsules, belongs to the last series of works that General Idea produced on the theme of AIDS. As the title suggests, the capsule count corresponds to the number of doses of AZT medication a seropositive person had to take each year during the early 1990s. The clinical and methodical look of the work as a whole, as well as its imposing scale, are metaphors for the devastating impact of the virus and the considerable efforts required to manage its effects on a daily basis. The same features of the work also evoke the pharmacological world into which infected persons are thrown.

Since two members of General Idea died as a result of complications from AIDS in 1994, it could be said that the installation is a kind of self-portrait. The collective sought to make people aware of AIDS; its final work features the artist as an activist campaigning on behalf of a cause, and calls upon viewers to act as responsible citizens.
One Year of AZT, a monumental installation comprising 1,825 capsules, belongs to the last series of works that General Idea produced on the theme of AIDS. As the title suggests, the capsule count corresponds to the number of doses of AZT medication a seropositive person had to take each year during the early 1990s. The clinical and methodical look of the work as a whole, as well as its imposing scale, are metaphors for the devastating impact of the virus and the considerable efforts required to manage its effects on a daily basis. The same features of the work also evoke the pharmacological world into which infected persons are thrown.

Since two members of General Idea died as a result of complications from AIDS in 1994, it could be said that the installation is a kind of self-portrait. The collective sought to make people aware of AIDS; its final work features the artist as an activist campaigning on behalf of a cause, and calls upon viewers to act as responsible citizens.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Afterthought

[…]

Felix and Jorge and I lived and worked together for twenty-seven years: during that time we became one organism, one nervous system; one set of habits, mannerisms and preferences. We presented ourselves as a "group" called General Idea, and we pictured ourselves in doctored photographs as the ultimate artwork of our own design: we transformed our borrowed bodies into props, significations manipulated to create an image, a reality. We chose to inhabit the world of mass media and advertising. We made ourselves the artists we wanted to be.

Since Jorge and Felix died, I have been struggling to find the limits of my own body as an independent organism, as a being outside General Idea. Over the last five years, I have found myself, much like a stroke victim, learning again the limits of my nervous system, how to function without my extended body (no longer three heads, twelve limbs), how to create possibilities from my reduced physicality.

- AA Bronson

Excerpt from AA Bronson published in Peggy Gale.- Tout le temps / Every Read More
Afterthought

[…]

Felix and Jorge and I lived and worked together for twenty-seven years: during that time we became one organism, one nervous system; one set of habits, mannerisms and preferences. We presented ourselves as a "group" called General Idea, and we pictured ourselves in doctored photographs as the ultimate artwork of our own design: we transformed our borrowed bodies into props, significations manipulated to create an image, a reality. We chose to inhabit the world of mass media and advertising. We made ourselves the artists we wanted to be.

Since Jorge and Felix died, I have been struggling to find the limits of my own body as an independent organism, as a being outside General Idea. Over the last five years, I have found myself, much like a stroke victim, learning again the limits of my nervous system, how to function without my extended body (no longer three heads, twelve limbs), how to create possibilities from my reduced physicality.

- AA Bronson

Excerpt from AA Bronson published in Peggy Gale.- Tout le temps / Every time : La Biennale de Montréal 2000.- Montréal: Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2000.- p. 35.

© Centre international d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2000

An internationally recognized pioneer of Canadian conceptual art, General Idea was a Toronto artists’ collective. Founded in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, it made a name for itself by using numerous strategies to appropriate and manipulate forms of popular media and artistic culture. After 25 years of working together, the group disbanded in 1994 following the deaths of Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal from AIDS-related illnesses. AA Bronson went on to make art under his own name.

www.aabronson.com/art/gi.org

selected exhibitions
2005 Trade Show, MASS MoCA, North Adams (United States) Expérience de la durée, Lyon Biennial 2005, Lyon (France) 2003 General Idea Editions 1968-1995, touring exhibition organized by Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga (Ontario) 2002 A Day Without Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Ontario) 1999 The Museum as Muse: Artists Reflect, Museum of Modern Art, New York (United States)
An internationally recognized pioneer of Canadian conceptual art, General Idea was a Toronto artists’ collective. Founded in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, it made a name for itself by using numerous strategies to appropriate and manipulate forms of popular media and artistic culture. After 25 years of working together, the group disbanded in 1994 following the deaths of Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal from AIDS-related illnesses. AA Bronson went on to make art under his own name.

www.aabronson.com/art/gi.org

selected exhibitions
  • 2005 Trade Show, MASS MoCA, North Adams (United States)
  • Expérience de la durée, Lyon Biennial 2005, Lyon (France)
  • 2003 General Idea Editions 1968-1995, touring exhibition organized by Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga (Ontario)
  • 2002 A Day Without Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Ontario)
  • 1999 The Museum as Muse: Artists Reflect, Museum of Modern Art, New York (United States)

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved.

AIDS
A late, critical phase of the infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which destroys the natural defences of the organism’s immune system, making it susceptible to a wide range of infections. Since the first known incidences of AIDS, which go back to 1980, three modes of transmission have been identified: through sexual contact; through contact with contaminated blood; during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when mothers who carry the virus are in danger of transmitting it to their children. In 1990, some one million people were estimated to have died from the effects of the disease, and in 2006 the United Nations put the number of people infected with AIDS world wide at 40.3 million.

AZT
Created in 1987, AZT (azidothymidine)was the first antiretroviral drug administered to people infected with HIV. This medication did not lead to a cure but slowed down the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, however, it was highly toxic and produced major side effects, which is why those taking it had to have frequent blood transfusions. Also, the astronomical price of the medication put it out of the reach of most s Read More
AIDS
A late, critical phase of the infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which destroys the natural defences of the organism’s immune system, making it susceptible to a wide range of infections. Since the first known incidences of AIDS, which go back to 1980, three modes of transmission have been identified: through sexual contact; through contact with contaminated blood; during pregnancy and breastfeeding, when mothers who carry the virus are in danger of transmitting it to their children. In 1990, some one million people were estimated to have died from the effects of the disease, and in 2006 the United Nations put the number of people infected with AIDS world wide at 40.3 million.

AZT
Created in 1987, AZT (azidothymidine)was the first antiretroviral drug administered to people infected with HIV. This medication did not lead to a cure but slowed down the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, however, it was highly toxic and produced major side effects, which is why those taking it had to have frequent blood transfusions. Also, the astronomical price of the medication put it out of the reach of most seropositive people.

installation
A category of multidimensional work that borrows from a number of disciplines (painting, sculpture, photography, video, acoustics, etc.) and is designed to work with or against specific features of the site where it is to be exhibited.

© Galerie de l'UQAM 2007. All rights reserved

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • demonstrate an understanding of how science and art can be linked;
  • try to explain the state of mind of the artists when they made this art piece.

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