Readings – General Idea & Artist Multiples

Individually, formulate a short response of either 200-300 written words or about 2 minutes of speaking (audio or video recording) using the questions (at the bottom of the page) as prompts for thinking. You might only be able to answer one question! Your response is due on the blog on Thursday March 28th. There will be time in class before then for group discussions.

Questions to Consider:

  • Recall how Pope.L harnessed “the power of the popular” in his performances in public places. How did General Idea do something similar with their editions?
  • How did General Idea link disease, politics, and the dissemination of their artworks through the idea of “viral transmission”? How do you think social media might have transformed this idea had the collective survived to present day?
  • Can the edition exist on the internet/social media? Is it important that editions can be “owned”?
  • Miller describes the AIDS edition as being “like a redundant thought balloon, spelling out what people already feared but refused to say.” If that in 1987 was AIDS, what might that be today?
  • What is the significance of the final sentence of Miller’s essay in relation to the concept of General Idea’s AIDS work(s)?

Félix González Torres

Félix González Torres (1957-1996) was a Cuban-American artist best known for his minimalist conceptual portraits featuring stacks of paper, beaded curtains, and mounds of colourful candies. He was also part of the artist collective Group Material.

“In the work of Félix González Torres, beauty is also a life force, affirming the presence of intense intimacy, closeness, our capacity to know love, face death, and live with ongoing unreconciled grief.”

bell hooks, “subversive beauty: new modes of contestation” (1994)

Key Works:

“Untitled” (Perfect Lovers) (1991)

“Untitled” (Perfect Lovers) (1991) – Two identical clocks hanging side by side, touching, perfectly in sync with each other.

“Time is something that scares me… or used to. The piece I made with the ctwo clocks was the scariest thing I have ever done. I wanted to face it. I wanted those two clocks right in front of me, ticking. [….] The idea of pieces being endless happened because at that point I was losing someone very important.”

Félix González Torres, “All the Time in the World” (1991)
“Untitled” (1991)

“Untitled” (1991) – A billboard featuring a photograph of an unmade made, drawing attention to the absence of the two bodies who had previously occupied it.

“Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) (1991)

“Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) (1991) – A mound of candies individually wrapped in multicoloured cellophane. The mound weighs 175 lbs – the average weight of Torres’ partner, Ross – but this weight drops as gallery visitors are encouraged to take candies home with them. Portrait of Ross in L.A. is a conceptual representation of Ross and his body as he was dying of AIDS-related complications; it’s a portrait of loss and the experience of grief. As the mass of the mound diminishes, gallery staff replenish the candies back to 175lbs, and the cycle begins again until the exhibition of the work is over (or for an implied eternity).

“Untitled” (Loverboys) 1991

“Untitled” (Loverboys) (1991) – A mound of blue and white candies individually wrapped in clear cellophane. This mound weighs approximately the combined weight of Torres and Ross. Again, gallery visitors are encouraged to take candies home with them, and gallery staff replenish the mound. With the two bodies together, Loverboys is less a meditation on loss and grief, and more about desire and consumption.

Torres and a cat

Works Cited
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ed. Julie Ault. Steidl Publishers. 2006.

Lecture: Conceptual Portraits

Ana Mendieta

Untitled – Silueta series (1976)

Tehching Tsieh

One Year Performance (1980-81)

Adrian Piper

The Mythic Being: I Embody Everything You Most Hate and Fear (1975)

Nao Bustamante

America the Beautiful (2002)

Germaine Koh

Knitwork (1992-ongoing)

Spring Hurlbut

Rehab Nazzal

Driving in Palestine (2023)


Suviittuq! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ • Can’t be helped/Too bad! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (2021)

One Feat Three Ways

Artist Statement: SUITCASES

Suitcases” is about the exploration of an impossible feat, using an item we are all familiar with. We all have experienced putting ourselves in strange, tight, situations: School lockers, small closets under the stairs, cabinets … We were curious to see what it would be like to try to zip ourselves into a suitcase, and drag it on or off scene. For this project, Lise was able to borrow three large suitcases, with the idea that we might be able to fit in at least one of them. Both Evelyn and Lise tried several different ways to actually fit inside the suitcases, with no success. At this point, we were not willing to accept that our idea was impossible. Evelyn called on her friend Sarah, who is tall and slim, and also very flexible. Fortunately, Sarah was also available to help us on a Saturday afternoon.

#1 The One-Shot

Evelyn selected one video demonstrating how she and Lise tried to fit into the largest suitcase, without success. 

#2 The Sequence

Lise pulled clips from all the videos shot in one afternoon, and created a sequence that demonstrates the many ways we can try to fit into three different suitcases, and how we were finally successful when Sarah joined us. We also had some fun along the way.

#3 The Loop

Evelyn chose a video that begins with Sarah bringing a suitcase on scene, and climbing in and zipping herself into the suitcase. This was merged with a clip of Evelyn rolling the suitcase off screen, and looped several times. 

While our concept has nothing to do with Bridget Moser, we were inspired by a moment in their performance where they sit in their suitcase. We have learned that we (at least Evelyn and Lise) can’t actually pack themselves into a suitcase and sneak onto a trip. We learned too that this was an exercise in trust. Sarah did not know Lise, and yet she was willing to let herself be crammed into a suitcase. She had some agency in that she zipped herself in, but it is a tiny, dark and cramped place.