General Idea Editions 1967-1995

Produced in conjunction with the 2003 exhibition General Idea Editions 1967-1995

320 pages, softcover, full colour, 17cm x 23cm
ISBN 0-7727-8206-7

Out of print

cover of General Idea Editions catalogue

This publication is the definitive work on the editions of the internationally renowned artists’ collective General Idea. It was produced in conjunction with a major retrospective exhibition by the same title, curated by then Director/Curator of the Blackwood Gallery Barbara Fischer. The work is comprised of four sections: critical texts by the curator, Barbara Fischer, and the last remaining member of General Idea, AA Bronson; a catalogue raisonné of editions, ephemera, and film and video works, compiled by Fern Bayer; a commentaries section containing nine essays by other writers and artists (Jean Christophe Ammann, Lionel Bovier, Cathy Busby, Christophe Cherix, Joshua Decter, Diedrich Diedrichsen, John Miller, Philip Monk, and Stephan Trescher), as well as an interview with AA Bronson by Mike Kelley; and, a complete exhibition history and bibliography for General Idea up to 2002. The work contains over 200 colour and black-and-white images.

General Idea: Editions 1967-1995 was published by the Blackwood Gallery in collaboration with the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston), Mount St. Vincent University Art Gallery (Halifax), Art Gallery of Hamilton, Museum London, Plug In ICA (Winnipeg), Dunlop Art Gallery (Regina), Illingworth Kerr Gallery (Calgary), Charles H. Scott Gallery (Vancouver), and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.


General Idea was formed by Jorge Zontal, Felix Partz, and AA Bronson in 1969, when they converged in Toronto (from Halifax, Winnipeg, Vancouver and other drifts afield). Having already changed their own names once or twice, they abandoned the model of the singular or solitary artist to slip into the anonymity of a corporate entity whose variously entangled working relationships would become its politics. “Three heads are better….” they said, and began their operations under the sign of Miss General Idea—a “s/he”—whose image is first found in Untitled (‘Artist’s Conception’) (1970) and whose function as muse is acknowledged decisively in the group’s haunting, posthumously published booklet XXX Voto (for the Spirit of Miss General Idea) (1995). Guided by this ambiguous transvestite figure, and drawing on the literary, theatre, and music scenes as well as diverse intellectual histories (from Nietzsche to Claude Lévi Strauss, Roland Barthes, Marshall McLuhan, and William Burroughs, among others), General Idea quickly came to produce work in a broad if not dizzying variety of media. Their work would include everything from performance, video, installation, publications, and conceptual architecture to photo-based works and a seemingly infinite array of edition-based projects. This proliferation of artistic modes alone signalled the site of their interests: the unprecedented burgeoning of the culture industry in the late 20th century.

If cryptic at first, General Idea’s operations presciently and swiftly took shape in a set of succinct, ready-made forms. Drawn from the vortex of the culture industry, they can be traced through the history presented in this book and exhibition. The earliest, first used by General Idea in the late 1960s and early 1970s, stem from everyday promotional culture: the business card, press release, and magazine. These evolved into intensely colourful messaging forms—from prints, posters, and balloons to the massively disseminated AIDS logo of the late 1980s and early 1990s. From the beginning, editioned projects were central to General Idea’s media-conscious “viral” undertakings. At the same time, these were the means of generating a participatory culture. Implying a democratization of the means of production vis-à-vis representations, they became tools for forming collaborative interests along underground lines of desire and dissent.

–excerpted from the Introduction by Barbara Fischer

Table of Contents


A Postscript for Preface  p. 17
Barbara Fischer

Introduction  p. 20
Barbara Fischer

Copyright, Cash, and Crowd Control: Art and Economy in the Work of General Idea  p. 24
AA Bronson

Catalogue Raisonné
compiled by Fern Bayer
            Editions 1967-1995  p.29
            Ephemera 1969-1998  p. 256
            Film and Video Works 1969-1994  p. 259


The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion  p. 264
Jean-Christophe Ammann

Figures of Discourse in General Idea  p. 263
Lionel Bovier

Remaining Viral  p. 270
Cathy Busby

General Idea’s Nazi Milk: Nothing Exotic p. 273
Christophe Cherix

Replicate  p. 276
Joshua Decter

An Alternative to the Alternative Press  p. 279
Diedrich Diederichsen

Excerpts from a Conversation  p. 283
Mike Kelley and AA Bronson

AIDS (1987)  p. 289
John Miller

Money Was the First Multiple  p. 293
Philip Monk

The Perfect Little Pleaser: General Idea’s PLA©EBO Pin  p. 296
Stephan Trescher

Exhibition History & Bibliography  p. 300

Contributor’s Notes  p. 312

Index  p. 314

Artists & Writers

Jean Christophe Ammann
Fern Bayer
Lionel Bovier
AA Bronson
Cathy Busby
Christophe Cherix
Joshua Decter
Diedrich Diedrichsen
Barbara Fischer
General Idea
Mike Kelley
John Miller
Philip Monk
Stephan Trescher


Translation: Timothy Barnard, Barbara Fischer
Research and Coordination of Documentation: Fern Bayer
Design: Andrew Di Rosa/ SMALL
Typesetting: Archetype, Richard Hunt
Editing: Lorissa Sengara
Printing: St. Joseph Print Group, Ottawa, Canada
Photography: Peter MacCallum
Collaborating Galleries: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Mount St. Vincent University Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Museum London, Plug In ICA, Dunlop Art Gallery, Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Charles H. Scott Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

How To Order

This publication is no longer available. For research purposes, please check for the library holding of this title closest to you.


The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Related Projects

thumbnail for General Idea exhibition

General Idea Editions: 1967-1995
January 16 - February 16, 2003
Curated by Barbara Fischer