Press Releases

Lecture: 'AA Bronson: My Life in Books'

Published 2010/01/26

Photo: Ari Marcopoulos


Project: 'QUEER ZINES'

Opening: Wed, 27 January / 18:00

Lecture: 'AA Bronson: My Life in Books'

Wed, 27 January / 19:00

Office for Contemporary Art Norway
Nedre gate 7, Oslo /

Project Space: Wed, Fri and Sat / 12-16:00
Thu / 12:00-18:00

As a continuation of 'Columns, Grottos, Niches: The Grammar of Forms – On Art Criticism, Writing, Publishing and Distribution,' launched in autumn 2009, OCA presents AA Bronson, a member of the artists' collective General Idea (1969-94), co-founder of Art Metropole in Toronto and executive director of New York City's Printed Matter and the New York Art Book Fair, as a participant in OCA's International Studio Programme.

About the Project

'QUEER ZINES' presents a survey of serial, independent publications with a queer sensibility, spanning from the early 1970s to today, from Straight to Hell, Boyd McDonald's ground-breaking, filthy, oft-times political, sex zine of the 1970s, to BUTT Magazine, the Dutch mainstream super-zine still circulating today. Among these seminal publications, the project includes an explosion of punk zines, perhaps best epitomized by the mythic JDs – zines that crossed the traditional boundaries of race, class, gender; cheaply produced and largely distributed by mail. Their formal dynamism, mixed media and radical politics find a striking analogue in contemporaneous queer theory. First shown in the New York Art Book Fair in 2008 as a larger survey exhibition curated by Philip Aarons and AA Bronson with Alex Gartenfeld, 'QUEER ZINES' was accompanied by a catalogue with the same name. On the occasion of the 'QUEER ZINES' project at OCA, this catalogue is available for sale during the course of the exhibition.

In addition to the selection of queer zines, two videos by Genreal Idea are also on view:

Test Tube (1979, 28:15min, colour, sound)
Produced by de Appel, Amsterdam during a residency there, Test Tube was conceived as a television programme. Presented under the brand 'The Color Bar Lounge', a cocktail bar in the mythical 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion, the program is a hybrid of popular television formats, including talk show, soap opera, news magazine and infomercial. Introducing the program, the artists-cum-media hosts pitch The Color Bar as a 'cultural laboratory', serving up curative portions in test tubes in a lounge environment. Advertisements for the bar are placed throughout the programme; a loaded word choice, full of double-entendres and innuendo, betrays the influence of both Dadaism and consumerism.

Shut the Fuck Up (1984, 14min, colour, sound)
Using ironic and iconic excerpts from television and film from the 1960s, such as The Joker character from Batman and part footage of Yves Klein's painting and performance from Mondo Cane, General Idea examine the relationship between the mass media and the artist. Recalling Klein's use of 'IKB' – International Klein Blue or chroma-key blue – they revisit their own performance XXX blue (1984), at Centre d'Art Contemporain in Geneva, where they painted large Xs using stuffed poodles dipped in blue paint. The video reveals the meaning of language and iconography in their work, and provides some background for their choice of poodles as mascot and metaphor. As Felix Partz comments: 'Those who live to please, must please to live'.

About the Lecture

AA Bronson will present images and reflections on his life in art as seen through publications, beginning with the underground newspapers of the 1960s, and continuing with his involvement with artists' books and periodicals from the early 1970s to the present. In particular, he will focus on his 25 years with the artists' group General Idea from 1969 through 1994, when they produced FILE magazine (1972-89) and founded Art Metropole (1974). Bronson will also offer a narrative of his ongoing projects, including the New York Art Book Fair and publishing projects at Printed Matter, New York, the non-profit organisation that he has directed for the last five years.

Additionally, Torpedo Bookshop will present a selection of original FILE magazines and General Idea editions from Torpedo's archive at Torpedo Bookshop on 28 January at 19:00 at Hausmanngate 42. (Previously shown as a part of the exhibition 'November 2008 – artist-initiated magazines' at Rekord Gallery, 2008).

About the Artist

AA Bronson lived and worked as a member of the artists' group General Idea from 1969 through 1994, with Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz. Together, they presented over 100 solo exhibitions world-wide, and exhibited in biennales in Paris (1977), Venice (1982), Sydney (1983) and São Paulo (1998), as well as documenta (1983). They published the influential FILE magazine (1972-89), and founded Art Metropole (1974), an early artist-run archive and distribution centre for artists' editions and publications in Toronto. In the last seven years of their time together they worked solely on the subject of AIDS. Since the deaths of his partners in 1994, AA Bronson has worked and exhibited as a solo artist, curator, educator, animator and gay icon. Solo exhibitions include those presented at Secession, Vienna (2000); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2001); the MIT List Visual Art Center, Cambridge (2002) and the Power Plant, Toronto (2003). Author and editor of numerous texts and books, including his autobiography Negative Thoughts (2001) and Queer Zines (2008), he lives and works as an artist and healer in Manhattan, where he is also the director of Printed Matter, Inc., and the Artistic Director of the Institute for Art, Religion, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary. He was appointed Senior Critic at the School of Art, Yale University, in 2006, and given honorary doctorates by NSCAD University in 2007 and Concordia University in 2009.

AA Bronson is visiting OCA as part of OCA's International Studio Programme Oslo (ISP), which is available for international artists and curators by invitation, independently or in connection with research in Norway.

About 'The Grammar of Forms'

'Columns, Grottos, Niches: The Grammar of Forms – On Art Criticism, Writing, Publishing and Distribution' is a series public events, workshops and presentations from autumn 2009 to spring of 2010 at OCA's premises at Nedre gate 7, with the aim to look at language, writing, criticism and publishing in relation to contemporary art, exploring its diverse modes of operation and possibilities within historical and contemporary practices. In these public events, writers, artists, critics, publishers and theorists investigate different experiences of and approaches to writing and language, specifically in relation to art. These events have a pedagogical remit, and are accompanied by a series of projects including presentations of artworks and libraries of publications, made available to the public for consultation and reading. Past speakers include Peter Osborne, Ina Blom, Will Bradley, Anne Hilde Neset and Stuart Bailey. Upcoming speakers include Mikkel Astrup and Ecke Bonk.

'Columns, Grottos, Niches: The Grammar of Forms' is designed and installed by tenfinger, Brussels,

For press inquiries and more information on the project, the workshop or the OCA semesterplan, please contact Marthe Tveitan at