Collection C048 - General Idea Collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

General Idea Collection

General material designation

  • Object
  • Graphic material
  • Textual record
  • Sound recording

Parallel title

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Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

  • Source of title proper: Title based on the content of the collection.

Level of description

Collection

Reference code

C048

Edition area

Edition statement

Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area

Date(s)

  • 1971-1996 (Creation)
    Creator
    General Idea

Physical description area

Physical description

30 cm of textual records
24 objects
14 prints
5 postcards
2 sound recordings
1 poster

Publisher's series area

Title proper of publisher's series

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Numbering within publisher's series

Note on publisher's series

Archival description area

Name of creator

(1969-1994)

Biographical history

The artist collective General Idea was formed in Toronto in 1969 by three Canadian artists known as Jorge Zontal, Feliz Partz, and AA Bronson, pseudonyms they adopted to better reflect their identities within the group. What began as an artistic collaboration between friends, lasted for 25 years until the death of two members in 1994.

Jorge Zontal, originally named Slobodan Zaia-Levy, was born in a concentration camp in Parma, Italy, on January 28, 1944. After the end of the Second World War, Zontal and his mother reunited with his father, who was sent from Italy to Auschwitz. The family immigrated to Venezuela when Zontal was eight years old. In the 1960s, Zontal went to study architecture at Dalhousie University in Halifax, graduating in 1968. He also studied video at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, where he met Bronson, who was then teaching a workshop. A visit to Toronto made him move there permanently.

Felix Partz, born Ronald Gabe, was born on April 23, 1944, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Partz studied Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba in the mid-1960s. He traveled to Toronto in the summer of 1969 to visit his friend at Rochdale College, when he decided to remain in the city.

AA Bronson, born Michael Tims, was born on June 16, 1946, in Vancouver. In 1964, he enrolled in architecture studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Three years later, Bronson abandoned his studies to participate in building an alternative community that also produced the newspaper The Loving Couch Press, where he became a contributing editor. In 1969, Bronson settled at Rochdale College in Toronto.

The same year, the three artists met at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto. Shortly after that, Bronson, Zontal, and Partz founded the artist collective General Idea.

During the group’s artistic career, they produced a wide variety of media-based artworks and installations commenting on popular culture, mass media, consumption, social inequalities, the AIDS crisis, and queer identity, among other topics. In 1971, General Idea created the fictional narrative Miss General Idea Pageant, satirizing glamour and commenting on beauty, fame, and the commercial process of the art world. In 1984, the group created The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, a bigger-scale event based on the Miss General Idea narrative from 1971, which included a series of architectural proposals for the installation of a pavilion. In 1972, they published the first issue of FILE Megazine, a publication that aimed to promote other artists’ works as well as General Idea’s major projects. The group released 26 issues, the last one was published in 1989. In 1986, General Idea produced a painting for an exhibition in support of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, featuring the word AIDS in the style of Robert Indiana’s 1966 work LOVE, which was highly popular and appeared in a wide variety of formats such as keychains, napkins, postage stamps, etc. General Idea’s intention in creating the AIDS painting in the same style as LOVE was for it to spread like a virus and raise awareness of the AIDS crisis. The AIDS painting was later produced on a variety of different media, including sculpture, posters, wallpapers, and rings, and was used as a logo for AIDS campaigns in several cities such as New York, Berlin, and Toronto, and AIDS awareness became a central subject of the group’s work.

General Idea’s innovative conceptual approach to art-making gave them widespread recognition, participating in 149 group exhibitions and 123 solo exhibitions around the world.

General Idea remained active until the deaths of Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz on February 3, and June 5, 1994, respectively, from AIDS-related causes.

Custodial history

Materials were donated to the Library's Special Collections by Stéphane Danis on Agust 6, 2023, and arrived at the Vanier Library on August 15, 2023.

Scope and content

The General Idea collection consists of a variety of works produced by General Ideal between 1971 and 1996.

The collection contains a complete run of FILE Megazine (1972-1989) and several rare multiples.

List of multiples in the collection:
• FILE Chart (Top 10) (1972)
• The Miss General Idea Pageant Programme (1971)
• Manipulating the Self [publication] (1971)
• The Getting into the Spirits Cocktail Book from the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion (1980).
• Artist and Models exhibition – 3 postcards (1977)
• Nazi Milk Cocktail Card [annotated by AA Bronson] (1980)
• A Poodle Creates a Portrait of General Idea as Three Pee Holes in the Snow (1981)
• Ghent Scarf (1984)
• Midelburg Tile (1985)
• Sigarbox (1985)
• Bondage (1987)
• 10 Crests: Down the Drink, Le Fin, Ouroboros, Phoenix with a P, Post Mortem, When Fur Flies, Eye of the Beholder, Lucre, Cartouche, Passion over Reason (1988-1991)
• Test Pattern: T.V. Dinner Plate (1988)
• Test Pattern: T.V. Dinner Plates from the Miss General Idea Pavilion Test Pattern Wallpaper [Offset publication with 4 perforated placemats] (1988)
• Test Pattern: T.V. Dinner Plates from the Miss General Idea Pavilion Test Pattern Wallpaper [Poster] (1988
• Test Pattern Wallpaper (1989)
• Mastercard and Trinitron pasta postcards (1989)
• AIDS (A Project of the Public Arts Fund Inc.) [offset on card] (1989)
• General Idea: The AIDS Project (1989)
• General Idea: The AIDS Project prints (1989)
• AIDS Ring (1993)
• Lucre Shopping Bag (1990)
• Yen Shopping Bag (1993)
• Placebo Pin (1991)
• Placebo Pin (1996)
•Magic Bullet (1992)
• General Idea’s Putti (1993)
• General Idea: Multiples - Catalogue Raisonné 1967-1993 (1993)
• XXX Voto (1995)

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Materials were donated to Concordia University Library by Stephane Danis on July 13, 2023, and arrived at the Vanier Library on August 15, 2023.

Arrangement

Textual records have been arranged in the order of receipt. Oversized items and objects are stored separately.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

    Location of originals

    Availability of other formats

    Restrictions on access

    No restrictions.

    Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

    Reproduction for research or private study may be permitted. Using materials for purposes other than research and private study will require the permission of the copyright holder(s).

    Finding aids

    Box listings are available.

    Associated materials

    Related materials

    Accruals

    No further accruals are expected.

    Conservation

    Textual records were placed in acid-free folders and archival quality boxes. Oversized materials were unrolled and placed in large-size archival folders. Objects are protected with archival-quality foam and paper in archival boxes.

    Rights

    Copyright belongs to the creator(s).

    Alternative identifier(s)

    Standard number

    Standard number

    Access points

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    Name access points

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    Description record identifier

    Institution identifier

    Rules or conventions

    Status

    Final

    Level of detail

    Full

    Language of description

      Script of description

        Sources

        Accession area