Critical Writing Index

Oral history interview with AA Bronson, 2017 March 3, 5, and 6

by Theodore Kerr

Archives of American Art

This is a transcribed interview with AA Bronson, a curator, installation artist, performance artist and publisher born in 1946. The interview was conducted by Theodore Kerr in March of 2017 in the artist’s studio in Berlin. The conversation is peppered with interjections, corrections and additions by Bronson’s partner, Mark Jan Krayenhoff van de Leur. It was conducted for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project.

The conversation between Bronson and Kerr begins with biographical, chronological information where he speaks on the similarities between his mother’s experiences with war in London and the AIDS epidemic in New York City in the late 80’s early 90’s. AA recalls his earliest memories, maps his geographical moves as a child, throughout Canada and notes how it was then that his love for nature blossoms. He communicates an early sense of collaboration in a specialized eight grade class. This notion of collaboration runs rampant throughout the entirety of the interview and throughout his artistic practice. Bronson speaks on his love for books and modernism, how this led to his studying of architecture. He states that he considered the decision of being an artist as a selfish decision, whereas architecture was laden with opportunities for a larger social impact. AA then leaves university, following his interests in alternative forms of education, and starting a commune in Winnipeg. 

They map the beginning of General Idea in Toronto,describing that what they were doing

was yet to be named, but could now be regarded as social practice. Bronson recounts how the members of the collective were working and living in Toronto and New York city, working odd jobs. They communicated with one another though fax, sending work between members.

Bronson speaks on how the artists were caregivers for their friends dying of AIDS. AA notes that the states were still very much in a hushed state regarding HIV and AIDS, and how there was conflict with the American activist scene, who were younger than General Idea, and who accused them of being opportunistic regarding their involvement and political statement regarding AIDS and HIV. Given that the group was living in New York without papers, they had limited involvement with local activism such as ACT UP. 

Kerr and Bronson discuss General Idea’s tremendous interest in networking, and social practice, which was later to be regarded within the framework of queer theory. In 1986, all members of General Idea moved to New York. Around this time the artist reinvented himself as AA Broson. Bronson says that he became AA as a bolder version of himself; as a bigger persona, bold, exuding confidence. He explains the divide between the two personas: Michael Tims and AA Bronson’s, as public and private, shamelessness and shamefulness. Later, Bronson relays the circumstances of the deaths of Felix and Jorge, and his emotional and physical state throughout and after their deaths. Bronson speaks on the negotiations of the managing of the estate, as executive, and as artist and collaborator. The artist speaks to how healing became an important factor in his practice,and how he began doing work as a healer after receiving certification and completing many workshops, which led to his healer persona fusing with his artist persona. Bronson discusses how the internet makes space for creating friendships and artistic relationships, mentorships and how collaboration remains integral to his art making practice, before, during, and after General Idea. The interview concludes with the inclusion of a work in progress entitled: A Public Apology to the Siksika Nation Where Bronson intends to address his great grandfathers’ hand in the first residential school east of Calgary. Bronson hopes that the apology will take the form of a performance on the reservation, with a publication to accompany it, in collaboration with the artist Adrian Stimson. 

 

ITEM 2017.006 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Felix Partz

Jorge Zontal

Murray McLauchlan

Ad Reinhardt

James Rosenquist

Claes Oldenburg

Lee Bontacou

Marisol Escobar

Donald Judd

Frank Lloyd Wright

Oscar Niemeyer

Peter Smithson

Alison Smithson

Roberto Burle Marx

Buckminster Fuller

Louwrien Wijers

Gilbert & George

Granada Gazelle

Dennis Oppenheim

Vito Acconci

Joseph Beuys

File magazineJohn Armleder

God Is My GigoloRay Johnson

Club CanastaGeneral Idea

Miss General Idea PageantGeneral Idea

The Miss General Idea PavilionGeneral Idea

Shut The Fuck UpGeneral Idea

LOVEGeneral Idea

Nazi MilkGeneral Idea

Robert Indiana

Lena [Cries]General Idea

Lana [Cries]Marlene McCarty

Gran Fury

AA Bronson

Susan Harrison

Andy Warhol

Jack Smith

Chrysanne Stathacos

Lawrence Weiner

Negative ThoughtsJoan Jonas

Gregg Bordowitz

One Year and One Day of AZTYdessa Hendeles

AA Bronson

Tent for HealingJohn Greyson

Death PortraitGeneral Idea

"Untitled (for General Ideal)"Barr Gilmore

AA Bronson

Reconstructing FuturesAA Bronson

Showcard SeriesAA Bronson

Matthias Herrmann

General Idea

General Idea

Jasper Johns

Keith Hennessy

Terence Koh

Garrick Gott

Andrew Zealley

Max Schumann

Josh Smith

LTTR

James Morrison

Keith Murray

Marina Abramovic

Test TubeKara Walker

The Gorilla Girls

Paul Chan

Work Will Set You FreeAA Bronson

Queer SpiritsDavid Wojnarowicz

Sunil Gupta

Gay GothAA Bronson

AA Bronson

Ryan Brewer

Paul P. and Joel Gibb

Scott Treleaven

Michael Dudeck

Nayland Blake

White FlagsKeith Boadwee

Fire in [My] BellyAdrian Hermanides

A Public Apology to the Siksika NationEbe Oke

AA Bronson

David Michael Wojnarowicz

AA Bronson

Adrian Stimson