20 Questions with the Resistant AA Bronson: "Canadian Culture Discourages Difference"

20 Questions with the Resistant AA Bronson: "Canadian Culture Discourages Difference"
(General Idea, “Evidence of Body-Binding,” 1971)


Name – AA Bronson

Age - 67

Occupation - Artist

City/Neighborhood – Berlin-Kreuzberg, Germany

Current or upcoming exhibition(s) or similar:

“The Botanica,” with Michael Bühler-Rose, at Nature Morte, Berlin, April 27 – June 1, 2013

“Invocation of the Queer Spirits (Skellig Michael)” (performance with Oisin Byrne), Skellig Michael, Ireland, May 9, 2013

“The Temptation of AA Bronson,” Witte de With Contemporary Art Center, Rotterdam, opening September 5, 2013

“Invocation of the Queer Spirits (Amsterdam)," (performance), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, October 10, 2013

“Le Cabinet du Dr. Bronson,” Treize, Paris, November, 2013

What are you most proud of accomplishing, as an artist?

I am not such a fan of “accomplishments”, which seem to me to fall into the trap of fetishizing “success,” a typical problem of our era and culture. If there is anything that I am proud of, it is that I have managed to live my life as who I truly am, and that I have been able to encourage others—especially a younger generation of gay men—to do the same, without falling victim to the extremely narrow range of expectations that lure us into the “lifestyles” of corporate culture. Having said that, we do fall victim to our culture every day; maintaining consciousness is a daily task.

What's the last show that you saw?

The current retrospective of Martin Kippenberger at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. Fantastic show.

What is the main difference between collaborating and working independently?

One never works independently; it is not physically possible. Collaboration is therefore more honest. I also find it more fulfilling. We are social beings. The heroic notion of the artist-genius alone in his studio is fallacious and prideful.

What is the Canadian art world lacking?

I think the Canadian art world is fine just as it is.

In what ways (if at all) do you see yourself or your practice misrepresented?

By questions like this one. I do not have a ‘practice’. I leave that to the ‘professionals’ with their art ‘careers’. I never chose to be an artist; it is my vocation. I make art because I don’t know any other way to be alive in the world.

What's your favorite place to see art?

Everywhere. Where art is least expected. Where art is most expected. In seeing itself.

What's the most indispensable item in your studio?

I don’t have a studio. I work at home. My computer, I suppose.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

I am living in Berlin for a year, so I have begun researching the local history of plants, especially poisonous and medicinal plants, which are generally the same. They show up especially in the history of witchcraft and village medicine. This will result in new works for my exhibition “The Botanica,” a two-person project at Nature Morte Berlin with Michael Bühler-Rose.

Do you collect anything?

I have many collections: the largest is of artists’ books. My guess is that I have about 10,000 artists’ books from the ‘60s to today. Generally speaking, I do not buy out-of-print books. I try to buy them the year they are published.

What's the last artwork you purchased?

Not counting artists’ books, I purchased a series of drawings from the Chicago artist Elijah Burgher, who I have also been collaborating with on occasion.

What's the first artwork you ever sold? 

General Idea’s “Evidence of Body-Binding,” a series of small light boxes with images of parts of my body wrapped in elastic thread, was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada in 1971.

What's the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

I have never seen anything weird happen in a museum or gallery.

What's your art-world pet peeve?

The marketplace.

What's your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

Since I don’t go to galleries, this doesn’t apply.

What work of art do you wish you owned?

I’m very concerned that works of note end up in the public realm, that they be cared for, and that they be on view. I’m not so interested in owning them myself.

What international art destination do you most want to visit?

For the most part I avoid international art destinations.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?

I am gathering the artists and works and themes that interest me in my exhibition “The Temptation of AA Bronson”, opening September 5, 2013, at Witte de With in Rotterdam. You can find the answer to that question there.

Who's your favorite living artist?

There are hundreds, indeed thousands, of interesting artists in the world today.

What are your hobbies?

I don’t have hobbies.

What person or organization is making an important difference in Canadian art?

I’m not aware of any individual or institution making a “difference” in Canadian art, but then I have to ask, different from what? Canadian culture, for the most part, discourages difference.