Yet another article in the mythmaking Toronto press (here by Murray Whyte in the Star) about a defunct art trio we were told for decades was terribly, terribly important. I checked: The Star all by itself has written eight articles in the time I’ve lived here telling us how famous General Idea was all along. This trio was never actually reviewed or covered for its legitimate artwork in that time. Artfags knew about them, but that isn’t what I’m talking about. My issue here is coverage of the actual art in the same papers that insist the artists were always famous.
The only thing I’ve ever read about General Idea was one hack piece after another that declared they were always famous (that was their goal) and endlessly recapped the same career highlights that went unnoticed in the mainstream press when they actually happened.
Now, why else does General Idea get all this press? The same reason Toronto FC is popular: The prosody of the name. GENERALEYE dea; TORONTOEFF see. Another linguistic contribution: Two members of the art trio had unpronounceable names you couldn’t possibly recite from memory. Journos love that sort of thing. They can keep those names straight; why can’t you?
Toronto media love nothing more than to cover already-famous people whom Toronto media already have covered. (It’s been days since we’ve heard what Don McKellar, Paul Gross, and Peggy Atwood are up to.)
Instead of rewriting the same story I’ve read over and over again for the last 20 years, Murray Whyte could have done actual research. He could have documented how A.A. Bronson, always referred to as the “surviving member” of the group, had and has not a hope in hell of getting his name removed from his contribution to the Hide/Seek exhibit at the Smithsonian. (Actually taking the work off the walls was never in the cards.) I read and listened to endless interviews in which this aging artist type stated that “copyright” permits him to disassociate his name from a gallery environment he wishes to protest.
It does in Canada, because we have moral rights here, a term Bronson later began to use in interviews and a publicity-stunt letter. But in the United States, where, nobody seemed to notice, the Smithsonian is located, moral rights do not exist save for highly proscribed concessions for photographers. There was nothing whatsoever Bronson could do if the gallery wished to attach his name to his own work. Bronson failed in his quest, the only result he was ever going to get.
What could have been a commendable statement of principle was nullified by Bronson’s and journos’ ignorance of the law. But copyright is just too technical for art-world dearies. Why don’t we just run a profile? These guys have always been great.