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GIS 2022 : General Idea Symposium


When May 4, 2022 - May 4, 2022
Where Ottawa, Canada
Submission Deadline Mar 25, 2022
Notification Due Apr 1, 2022
Final Version Due May 20, 2022

Call For Papers

Three heads were better than one: AA Bronson, Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal. As members of General Idea (1969–1994), this trio – who thought of themselves more like a rock band than as an artist collective – have had a huge impact on the international contemporary art world.

The conceptual apparatus of their flagship enterprise, The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, though destroyed, has left a large imprint on culture. General Idea were a mirror of their times and a view on the future. They were cultural anthropologists, like Claude Lévi-Strauss; semiologists, like Roland Barthes; media savants, like Marshall McLuhan; and queer literary outsiders, like William Burroughs. They created a complex system that functioned as myth. Fact and fiction always blended in their work. So did irony and critique. They inhabited contemporary mass cultural and media formats with witty sophistication: the beauty pageant, LIFE magazine, television production. Their 1984 Miss General Idea Pageant was a parody of the ritual elevation and demotion of art stars, figured within the dominatrix persona and temporary reign of The Spirit of Miss General Idea. The Pavillion was an architecture elevated through language, constructed purely as a performative fiction. They said it, they did it. General Idea were social figures: artists with berets, businessmen with plans. One moment they were architects designing and building the Pavillion, then they were archaeologists sifting through its ruins. As cultural parasites they could mutate with the times. Little did they know that eventually their viral methods would be mirrored in a real-world crisis: AIDS.

The forthcoming exhibition General Idea (3 June–20 November 2022) at the National Gallery of Canada will cover the group’s twenty-five years of collaboration. It will include more than two hundred works, revealing the breadth of General Idea’s practice. The exhibition will be accompanied by a major publication – the most comprehensive source on the group’s work to date.

In conjunction with the exhibition and the launch of the publication, the National Gallery of Canada is organizing a symposium centred on General Idea’s life and work. We invite established and emerging scholars, art historians, curators, artists, and architects to submit proposals for 20-30 minute presentations (in either English or French) on themes such as:

• From The Loving Couch Press to Rochdale College: hippie communes, artist collectives, and queer communities
• Experiential and experimental living: GI and the early underground scene in Toronto (Theatre Passe Muraille and Coach House Press)
• The women behind Miss General Idea: GI and gender
• Correspondence, networks, and virality
• General Idea’s archival impulse: archives / archaeologies of futurity / Art Metropole
• Literary avant-gardism, archiTEXTure, and experimental writing in General Idea
• Détourning academia: GI and the Toronto School of Communication
• An advertising world: copyright, inhabitation, and intellectual parasitism
• Miss General Idea, Glamour, and the Society of the Spectacle
• Studio as social switching centre: architect’s office, modelling agency, Madison Avenue advertising agency, publishing house, television studio
• Speaking in Tongues: personas and performativity
• General Idea’s retail world: shops, boutiques, and commodities
• Consenting Adults: Foucault, bath raids, and the body politic
• Queer theory before and after Mondo Cane Kama Sutra
• From berets, palettes, and paint brushes to the re-materialization of the art object
• Television as a found format: GI television from Pilot to Shut the Fuck Up
• Pogo Dancing in the British Aisles: Punk GI, New Wave GI
• AIDS, care, and community
• IMAGEVIRUS, PLA©EBOS, and remediation
• Allegiance and appropriation: Beuys, Warhol, Klein, Nauman, Mondrian, Duchamp, Fontana, and others
• From Madame Blavatsky to the Dalai Lama: mysticism and spirituality
• Learning from General Idea: GI's influence on curating
• General Idea curates itself: posthumous exhibitions
• Caretaking General Idea: preservation and documentation

Please send a 300-word abstract and CV to Philip Monk, Chair, and Adam Welch, Associate Curator, National Gallery of Canada, at We welcome abstracts and presentations in both English and French. Panelists will receive a CAD 500 honorarium, round-trip travel to Ottawa, two nights' accommodation, and per diem.

The National Gallery of Canada is committed to collaborating with individuals who reflect the diversity of Canadian society and welcomes proposals from all applicants.

Deadline for abstracts: 25 March 2022
Notification date: April 1, 2022
Deadline for complete papers from accepted participants: May 20, 2022

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