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'Mirror' looks at issues of life, death, rebirth

"Anna and Mark, 2001" from AA Bronson's exhibition "Mirror Mirror" at the List Center.
"Anna and Mark, 2001" from AA Bronson's exhibition "Mirror Mirror" at the List Center.

"Mirror Mirror," an exhibition by Toronto-based multimedia artist AA Bronson, the sole surviving member of the legendary Canadian conceptual art collective General Idea, opens with a reception on Friday, Feb. 7 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the List Visual Arts Center (Building E15).

"Mirror Mirror" is Bronson's first solo exhibition in New England since his 25-year collaboration in art and life with Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal ended when the latter two died of AIDS in 1994.

Formed around 1970, General Idea gradually evolved into a collective, exploring media and the mythologies that surround it. Bronson, who was born Michael Tims, and his collaborators shed their former identities and adopted new personas. Through complex performances and installation events, they brought their fictional self-creations of Bronson, Partz and Zontal to life.

General Idea's work was often humorous, touching on fashion, coiffed poodles, metaphorical cocktails, mass culture and celebrity. His partners' influence on Bronson, as well as the legacy of their deaths, figure prominently in the artist's current work

In 1999, after five years of mourning, Bronson began regularly producing artwork under his own name, exploring issues of life, death and rebirth in relation to the AIDS epidemic. In "Mirror Mirror," he applies the professional and personal particulars of his own biography to universal issues of humanity. Using language taken from the Holocaust and current knowledge of post-traumatic stress disorder, he moves from the specific traumas of his personal losses through the larger global tragedy of AIDS to try to understand the transient nature of life and love.

"This show deals with embarrassingly large universal themes: life, death, love and the search for meaning," said Bill Arning, curator at the List Center. "While this show has been planned for over a year, in the post-Sept. 11 climate people are looking to culture as part of their spiritual quest, so the timing feels particularly right today."

Bronson's new work speaks of transforming crippling tragedy into spiritual growth. The exhibition includes photographs, installation works, wall paintings and video to weave together concepts derived from such seemingly disparate sources as Tibetan Buddhism and postmodernism.

A video collaboration with American conceptual artist Nayland Blake entitled "COAT" will be presented in the Bakalar Gallery. The images of Blake and Bronson icing each other's beards and kissing, projected with two monitors, explore the ideas of sexuality, masculinity, food and nurturing, and the complexity of multiracial identity.


Artist's talk--Friday, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. Meet at gallery front desk.
Curator's walk-throughs by Arning--Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.; Sunday Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, March 27 at noon. Meet at gallery front desk.
Videos by General Idea--Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m., Bartos Theater.

Regular gallery talks are held on Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 p.m. Group tours can be arranged by appointment during the gallery hours. Contact Hiroko Kikuchi, education/outreach coordinator, at x2-3586 or for inquiries.

The exhibition will continue through March 31.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 6, 2002.

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