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CCCA 20th ANNIVERSARY SYMPOSIUM

The Winnipeg Effect: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

The Winnipeg Art Gallery, November 3-5, 2016


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There's More Than One Way
[An overview of collective art making practices in Winnipeg, 1968 — NOW]


General Idea
(AA Bronson, Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal)
1968-1994

Mondo Cane (1985)
screenprint, edition of 25 + A/Ps, signed and numbered
Published by Open Studio, Toronto
Collection of E.J. Howorth, Winnipeg

File Magazines, Courtesy of Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art

Postcard from Felix Partz to Suzanne Gilles and Douglas Sigurdson, 1978
S. Gillies and D. Sigurdson Personal Archives, Winnipeg /Ottawa




Widely accepted as being founded in Toronto in 1969 by Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal and AA Bronson, General Idea has roots in Winnipeg, where Bronson (born Michael Tims) and Partz (born Ron Gabe) met prior to their relocation. Though produced prior to the group's official incorporation in 1969, General Idea has retroactively claimed a number of works by Felix Partz made while he still lived in Winnipeg. Indeed an early performance work by Partz/ Gabe was retroactively claimed by General Idea. In 1969 A Purse Snatching was orchestrated by Partz, where Julie Cowan walked through Central Park and had a silver handbag stolen. The bag, in the “thief's hands” was immediately donated to the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

If General Idea can retroactively claim artwork made in Winnipeg by a single member of the yet-to-be formed group, then Winnipeg can (retroactively) claim General Idea as theirs.

Claimed here by way of the playful Mondo Cane silkscreen edition ( pulled by Winnipeg artist and master printmaker, E.J. Howorth at Toronto's Open Studio, in 1985) the group's queer politics are put centre stage. With the poodle three-way, the point isn't so much a sniffing of their own asses as it is a coming together and a reliance on one another for both pleasure and edification.

The collective interrogated media image culture through now legendary projects like File magazine, as well as paintings, installations, sculptures, mail art, photographs, videos, ephemera, TV programs and even a beauty pageant. The group's transgressive concepts and provocative imagery challenged social power structures and traditional modes of artistic creation in ever-shifting ways, until Partz and Zontal's untimely deaths from AIDS-related causes in 1994.