Home » News: University of Manitoba rejects A.A. Bronson

News: University of Manitoba rejects A.A. Bronson

The artist A.A. Bronson, former member of collective General Idea and presently director of New York’s Printed Matter Inc. has been rejected by the University of Manitoba for the position of director of the School of Art.

VoCA thinks that the shortsightedness of the University has resulted in an unfortunate missed opportunity.
A real shame.


A.A. Bronson. Image: artnet.com

Following are excerpts from the job posting from the university’s human resources department, A.A.’s letter of interest (removed), his C.V and finally, a letter to the Other Gallery‘s Paul Butler (removed).

From the human resources dept:

The University of Manitoba is seeking a new Director to lead its talented and respected School of Art…The new Director will provide creative, intelligent and visionary leadership, encourage high-calibre programs of national reputation, promote excellence in teaching and awareness of contemporary practices and technologies, and encourage opportunities for interdisciplinary study. The Director will continue to raise the profile of the School both within the University and externally.”

From A.A.’s bio on Wikipedia:

AA Bronson (born Michael Tims in Vancouver in 1946)[1] is an artist who founded the artists’ group General Idea with Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz in 1969. They worked and lived together for 25 years. Their collaboration was terminated when Jorge and Felix both died in 1994. AA Bronson has been working independently since that time.

General Idea exhibited internationally in private galleries and museums in North America, Europe, Japan and Australia, as well as undertaking countless temporary public art projects around the world.
AA Bronson has written widely, including texts for FILE Megazine, and General Idea publications, as well as essays for art magazines and catalogues. His own memoir, Negative Thoughts, was published by the MCA Chicago in 2001.

AA Bronson’s solo work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), The Whitney Museum (New York), the Jewish Museum (New York), the Agnes Etherington Art Gallery (Kingston), and private collections.

AA Bronson has been awarded the 2002 Governor General’s Visual Arts and Media Award, the Bell Award in Video Art (2001), and a Chalmers Fellowship (2003). Other awards include The Gershon Iskowitz Prize (1988), The Lifetime Achievement Award from the City of Toronto (1993), the Banff Centre for the Arts National Award (1993), and the Jean A. Chalmers Award for Visual Arts (1994).

In 2007 he was awarded an honorary doctorate, Doctor of Fine Arts, by NSCAD University, Halifax, Canada.

For his full bio, please click HERE.

VoCA thanks Paul Butler for this story. Visit Paul’s artist website HERE.

31 Responses to “News: University of Manitoba rejects A.A. Bronson”

  1. LZG says:

    Baffling, but also (frustratingly) typically Canadian!

  2. News: people get rejected.

  3. LZG says:

    In favour of who? I’ll be interested to see…

  4. Hint: someone with academic credentials.

  5. Bill says:

    It’s true. We can’t really gripe about this until we see who gets the position, though it is a real shame that they are focusing on ‘academic credentials’ and not on the fact that AA Bronson is, like, verging on iconic status (well, he is to me!). It would have been a reason to bring an internationally successful, talented, generous and respected artist back to Canada, to which I can’t see a downside. But I guess General Idea were unappreciated by the Canadian art establishment during their time, so why should it be any different now?

  6. Andrea says:

    One would hope that it would be different now…

  7. Bill says:

    Well, if the near-full-house for the G.I. documentary at the Bloor last night was any indication, then we have reason to feel hopeful. There was a 20-something couple sitting next to me who had only a vague idea of what G.I. was but thought they sounded interesting, and they said they enjoyed the film and were going to try to learn more about them afterwards (and she started to cry when they got to the images of Felix and Jorge ravaged by AIDS)…anyway, perhaps another pair of converts to Canadian art were made that evening…

  8. Re:”But I guess General Idea were unappreciated by the Canadian art establishment during their time, so why should it be any different now?”

    That is absolutely NOT a statement that can be factually born out. Or maybe you’re looking at a different GI bio than I am.

    The point is academia does not always accept artworld currency at par.

  9. catherine says:

    I disagree that this can simply be brushly lazily aside as “typically Canadian,” as if that’s an excuse. AA Bronson and GI are among a small handful of artists in Canada who have not only succeeded internationally, they/he had/has remained a devoted Canadian artist/s. It’s completely shortsighted that he has not been considered for the position on the arbitrary ruling of a degree. We’re not talking engineering here, where you might build a bridge that falls. We’re talking about art, where ideas are core. So, a degree shouldn’t matter, and certainly not when the person who we are talking about hardly needed a university degree to legitimize his work. A life lived in art should. Winnipeg is the loser here. If there is any way that votes of confidence can be written to change this situation, please let me know. I’ll sign.

  10. Andrea says:

    Agreed!. Maybe we should start a petition…

  11. LZG says:

    “Typically Canadian” as in: not supportive of indigenous achievement – even internationally!!!

  12. Bill says:

    What I am referring to, J, is once General Idea’s work became more obviously political/queer-oriented, the amount of attention paid to their work dropped right off in Canada. AA Bronson says this in the GI documentary currently screening at Hot Docs (“No one wrote about it”, he says, quite bluntly, referring to the poodle and AIDS works.) and, if I’m recalling the film correctly, he also says that in Canada they were usually dismissed as jokers and pranksters rather than serious artists, hence the lengthy soujourns in Europe and New York. If you look at their exhibition biography on AA Bronson’s site, there is not a major Canadian public institution listed as giving them a solo exhibition between 1972 and 1984 (only artist-run centres and their commercial galleries) and yet they were showing solo at such places as the Stedelijk in Amsterdam during this time. The next solo shows in major Canadian public institutions during the group’s lifetime don’t come up again until 1992 and 1993, again after several years abroad. So, where was the support from the establishment on their home turf? I do think GI’s contribution to Canadian and international art is recognized by major Canadian institutions now, but I don’t see how it was there in any consistent way when the group was together.

  13. Are the AGO and VAG, not major Canadian public art institutions? Not to mention Canada House, The 49th Parallel and the Canadian Cultural Center in Paris which at the time were home away from home bases for Canadian Art? Was Lamanna not the creme de la creme of Canadian art dealers at the time? No CC grants for GI?

    If the work wasn’t appreciated it sure was NURTURED in its time. GI are my faves but this post only tells half the story.

  14. Just like the solo exhibitions page is usually only half the resume.

  15. L.M. says:

    There are institutions in Canada that do hire ‘uncredentialed’ exhibiting artists. Guelph comes to mind.

    I once asked a mid-career artist with a good exhibition record (plus teaching experience) why she was doing an MFA, she responded that since she planned to apply for other teaching positions, she didn’t want to give any hiring committee the slightest excuse not to consider her.

  16. The slightest excuse to consider her as a mid career artist or as a teacher of art in an academic setting? What do MFAs and increasingly, PHDs signify?

  17. Bill says:

    I never said that the AGO and the VAG didn’t show GI’s work or that they aren’t important institutions. What I said was that almost 12 years had to go by until one of these big institutions, the VAG, gave GI a SOLO exhibition in their home country, and that this strikes me as the Canadian art establishment as being not very supportive/interested back then. In my mind, a solo show at a major institution illustrates unequivocal support of an artist by the establishment. My idea of the establishment consists of the large public institutions whose names resonate with the general public, and the people running them. They play a big role in shaping what constitutes significant art in the eyes of the general public. (And that is what I am, an interested member of the public, not an artist, not an art-theory/history MFA holder so, please, try not to look down on me too much, J.) I’m not talking about ‘prestigious’ commercial galleries, which have a select audience (i.e., wealthy collectors), making them ineffective on their own in really making an artists’ work broadly known to the public. (And I’m sure that the average Torontonian in 1974 wouldn’t have known who Carmen Lamanna was.) The same goes for artist-run centres/smaller galleries at, say, universities, which play an important role in supporting artists’ careers and may have innovative and cutting-edge programing, but don’t have the same size of audiences or clout as the big institutions. And it is great that GI was shipped off to Paris and London in the late 70s to show their work; but why weren’t GI’s first “Canadian” solo shows actually in Canada? (Perhaps it was that “typically Canadian”…sorry, that phrase again…belief that artists have to prove themselves elsewhere until we’re going to think they are actually good.)

    Going back to my original post, though, I realize that I meant to type ‘underappreciated’. So, I apologize for that because I imagine that is what set off this entire tear…and I feel like we are hijacking the actual point of Andrea’s original post, so I’m signing off now…feel free to have the last work, J, so people can go back to planning how we can bring AA back to Canada.

  18. “I’m not talking about ‘prestigious’ commercial galleries, which have a select audience (i.e., wealthy collectors), making them ineffective on their own in really making an artists’ work broadly known to the public. (And I’m sure that the average Torontonian in 1974 wouldn’t have known who Carmen Lamanna was.)”

    Thanks for reiterating your points Bill.

  19. Bill says:

    I agree. Having an MFA or a PhD doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be an inspiration to students. I would think that being taught by a successful, internationally respected, consistently practising artist would be very inspiring to young art students. That’s what should be focused on.

  20. Bill says:

    And I know that the above is a very idealistic statement.

  21. I don’t find it idealistic but it’s not always realistic to presume great artists will be great professors/ academic art department heads anymore than it would be realistic to assume great teachers in art schools are always great famous artists. If you want to focus one way or the other – fine. But the issue is besides the point anyways. The story as told is still only half a story.

  22. B says:

    U of Winnipeg and U of Manitoba are two different schools.

  23. Andrea says:

    Oops…sorry! U of Manitoba. Not U of Winnipeg.

  24. Cliff Eyland says:

    As a similarly “uncredentialed” (BFA NSCAD 1982) but in any case associate professor at the University of Manitoba School of Art, I, too, have been concerned about the growing movement to “professionalize” art schools by creating studio PhD programs and by putting in place administrative regimes that make the art school system not only inaccessible but even opaque to non-initiates. When “academic standards” are stressed one usually means a strict conformity to a nightmare (see General Idea’s “Night School”!) “universal” education system that regulates art the way it regulates everything else, including “academic disciplines” such as hotel/motel management. Increasingly, administrative and professional criteria have been standardized and made Burger-King efficient at our institutions of higher art education. No wonder that it has become increasingly difficult for the so-called “uncredentialed” artist to be accepted, or to even understand why they are not accepted, by the academy.
    Jeanne Randolph, Dick Averns and I are engaged in a project called “Art School Anatomies” that is investigating these questions through performance, drawing and other media as a way of cracking the art administration code. I see an urgent need for art about art school as a way of helping to turn the art academy away from its pretentious slide into over-credentialed madness.

  25. Andrea says:

    “I see an urgent need for art about art school as a way of helping to turn the art academy away from its pretentious slide into over-credentialed madness.”

    Interesting idea, Cliff..

  26. I am a recent graduate from the University of Manitoba School of Art and was also recently featured in AA Bronson’s School for Young Shamans in NY in January, so my position in this unfortunate Dionysiac/Appoline split is troubling. The concept of an ‘Art Institution’ in my estimation is one that should advocate and contain paradox rather than seek to abolish it. General Idea’s concept of infection was an actuality – its ruptured a world and it’s systems, and AA is the last remaining officiate of the virus. The institution, which in my wide-eyed estimation should be a TEMPLE stopped the flow by abiding by jurisdictions. Institutions of art have to be constantly mutating, and shifting to accomodate changes in pressure, and be constantly welcoming in new changes or shifts in the paradigm, for in essence, we are here training the people who will then go to shift the paradigm. Sadly, I can report a large portion of the students leaving the school have no idea how to make art in the summer when no one is giving them forms to work on, and as soon as they have departed from the University they are adrift unconscious and alone. Whereas AA proves the nature of Art – which is versatile, aboriginal, and can happen in any place in any time regardless of credentials, I agree with Cliff that the Institution itself is a corporation with an agenda of teaching artists that they need MFAs to be artists just so that Universities can profit off of them. AA and Cliff both drew my attention to the fact that no matter what credentials I acquire, I already AM an artist … and as a young mind that was indoctrinated by the academic artillery into a ten year MFA PhD plan, I am pleased to say I have returned to my (and art’s) anarchist and ground-breaking roots

  27. Jeff Funnell says:

    It is strange that Cliff takes up a ground breaking position after having served on the committee that rejected AA’s application without even contacting his references that include Robert Stohr. What a rebel. He immediately talks about some project with Randolph that demonstrates the self interest that drives our school to such mediocrity.

  28. marilyn baker says:

    Not hiring Mr. Bronson may have been the smartest most subversive thing that the School of Art, University of Manitoba has done recently. Otherwise who outside of us would really care who gets the job as director beyond the often beleagured School of Art faculty members and students, some of whom are piping up above me.

    “Bring him/Bronson back to Canada” I say as a Visiting Artist and let’s see. Let’s really see how he shapes up in Academia! And by all means let’s consider him for a position in the new graduate program at the School of Art, U of M which is pending. He does however – whoops – need to apply.

    While the ideologies of modernism still persist for some (that anarchy is a precondition for art, even its natural order) this is hardly a new idea really. There have been historically and still are other more academic models which I hate/dare to say have produced great art not hamburger and hey might continue to do so even now/might even be doing so now.

    The new director is by the way Paul Hess from Emily Carr.
    BA, University of Guelph; MFA, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

    And his first day is today….

  29. Cliff Eyland says:

    I wonder how Jeff Funnell expects me to respond to his post?

  30. Stevie Jakobsen says:

    on the managerial level, is there not a huge difference between running a bookstore filled with 20 something hipster interns and an art department filled with cranky tenure track blowhards?

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