Haute Culture, indeed
Like everyone else in the Toronto art world, I was at the preview for General Idea: Haute Culture at the AGO this week. As would be the case for most people my age (late-ish 30s), it was a bizarre experience: We've read, studied and seen pictures of so much General Idea work that being in the presence of the actual pieces is a de-centring experience, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Really, how much opportunity have we in Toronto had to see GI's ouevre in the last decade or so, anyway? Aside from the AGYU's recreating the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion show, and Blackwood's show of multiples, the opportunities have been few and far between. Ottawa has been much better served by the National Gallery, which just last year devoted a good-sized room to various video works, not to mention its lengthy display of "One Day of AZT/One Year of AZT," up until last year ("One Day" is on loan to the AGO, and previously, La Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, where Haute Culture began).
So, Haute Culture: I've reviewed it for Saturday's paper, but not really; it's too huge, too comprehensive, too overstuffed with ideas for any newspaper essay to begin to reflect in a reasonable way. I was stunned by the volume, overwhelmed by the consistency and force of the ideas, and taken aback time and again by remarkable iterations of craft -- very fine painting and sculpture, alongside video and silkscreens -- that I suppose I never really associated with the group. I've always been fully seduced by General Idea's conceptual, media-conscious frame, but this show brings home the vast rift between understanding works of art, and truyl experiencing them. With Haute Culture, my world opened a little wider. Would that every show can offer that experience.
Anyway, the hits don't stop. Major installations, some never seen here before -- the Armory, for one, is mind-blowing; ditto the charred fragments of the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, "destroyed" by "fire" in 1977 -- left me kind of agape. I suppose I knew it was real, but with GI, seeing is believing. And even then, are you sure?
Get yourself over there. Now.