National Gallery of Canada celebrates A Day Without Art on Saturday, 1 December
Ottawa, Canada - November 27, 2001
« Le Musée des beaux-arts du Canada célèbre Un jour sans art, samedi le 1er décembre »
This year, the National Gallery of Canada commemorates A Day without Art with a tribute to the work of the contemporary artists' group General Idea. A Day Without Art is an international day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis. Every year on 1 December, World AIDS Day, art institutions around the world honour visual artists who live with or have died of AIDS. Two of the founding members of the General Idea, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, died of AIDS-related illnesses in 1994. This event also marks a tribute to the surviving member, AA Bronson, who courageously continues to create despite his great loss.
During this special day, visitors will have the opportunity to meet, between 1 and 2:30 pm, a guide who will answer questions regarding this group of artists and the two works selected for the occasion, One Day of AZT by General Idea and Felix, June 5, 1994 by AA Bronson.
One Day of AZT represents the daily dose of AZT taken by people living with AIDS as part of their treatment against the disease. The five coffin-sized pills, that make up the work, are a monument to all those who have succumbed to AIDS, and act as a grim reminder that the battle has not yet been won.
Felix, June 5, 1994, which shows Felix Partz a few hours after his death, is a powerful portrait symbolizing the passing of General Idea as an entity. Documented by AA Bronson, this scene recalls the art-historical tradition of the memento mori ("remember that you must die"), in which a portrait of death serves to remind the viewer of the transitory nature of life. The work is also reminiscent of the mortuary portrait, a painting tradition later followed by photographers, intended to commemorate the death of the rich, powerful, and famous.
General Idea, founded in Toronto in 1969, has played an important role in the Canadian and international art world. The group consisted of Jorge Zontal (Slobodan Saia-Levy), Felix Partz (Ronald Gabe), and AA Bronson (Michael Tims). In the spirit of the group, each artist adopted a pseudonym and forged a new identity. General Idea's work comments on mass media and popular culture, issues of identity, and the AIDS crisis. Together these artists produced a great number of works in different media, including videos, performance pieces, artist's books, photographs, sculptures, multiples, and prints. The General Idea was also instrumental in founding Art Metropole (1974), an archive comprised of multiples, artist's books, and printed matter, at a time when such material was being overlooked by many museums.
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