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AA Bronson

In joint artistic work they would have overcome the limitations of the individual, AA Bronson once explained, and with this meant the artist trio General Idea, with Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal. Patz and Zontal’s tragic death from the immunodeficiency disease AIDS in 1994 led to the end of the group active since 1969, which humorously and innovatively combined a wide range of possible media with conceptual approaches in their sculptures, performances and own magazine. Influenced by the attempts of the American right to ostracise and socially defame homosexuals, General Idea increasing explicitly shifted their own sexuality and the problems concerning AIDS research into the centre of their work, corresponding to the maxim that it is not only the personal but also intimate life that is political.

The artistic work of AA Bronson remains indebted to the ideas that were developed within this context of comprehending identity not as an individual but rather as a collective experience. From his own mourning for his lost artist friends, Bronson developed a practice in which sexuality, pleasure, and deep personal or social traumata intermingle. Shaped by introspection and intimate experiences, and beyond rationally reflected work of remembering or even sentimental glorification, he developed his own very humorous idea of a spiritual life. In Bronson’s case, this also includes collaborative relationships with younger artists, for whom he also acts as a mentor as well as absorbing their input. Bronson institutionalised this interplay of relationships within the framework of his most recent exhibition in Berlin, “Invocation of the Queer Spirits“ (2011), in the Galerie Esther Schipper, and presented it as a ‘school for young shamans’.

The gay spirits that were invoked here were not supposed to grant salvation, but rather to mark a path linking the physically tangible world with the inconceivable world, and in the end address the dissolution of the dichotomy of body and spirit. In the physical act of love he finds an analogy to the performative and sexual aspects of rituals, and parallel to this how the invocation of gay spirits causes this to appear. With the image of spirits as powerless apparitions, the artist makes reference to symbolic, physical or social exclusion, in reference to illness, weakness, but also due to sexual orientation. To this extent, his examination of sexuality cannot be reduced to a metaphor; it rather trades in the summons to celebrate sexual pleasure as a positive and potentially liberating force, and ultimately of social justice.

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