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AA Bronson: not your garden-variety artist

With output spanning 50 years, AA Bronson shows no signs of slowing down. SIEGESSÄULE spoke with the nature-loving artist in advance of his two engagements for Gallery Weekend

AA Bronson, 'Tent for Healing' (in collaboration with Travis Meinholf), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2013, Courtesy the artist and Esther Schipper, Berlin

Apr. 24, 2017 – The upcoming Gallery Weekend Berlin will attract collectors and art fags from all over the world, and this year features a true queer highlight amongst the 46 participating exhibition spaces: Canadian interdisciplinary artist AA Bronson will both present an installation at the KW and be the subject of a retrospective at Esther Schipper.

Bronson is the only surviving founder of General Idea: starting as a sort of reaction to Warhol's Factory in the late 60s, the art collective's output spanned performances, magazines, video work and beyond – with an emphasis on AIDS activism in the 80s and early 90s. His subsequent "solo" work very much retains a collaborative spirit, especially presenting the work of younger and lesser-known creative minds.

The five-day interactive installation Garten der Lüste at KW in Mitte features a number of his friends (and his architect husband, Mark Jan Krayenhoff van de Leur), several of whom will occupy the four tents assembled inside the building. As a proponent of the transformative power of art, AA himself will offer shamanistic healing sessions (by appointment only).

Meanwhile, the Esther Shipper gallery in Tiergarten will present Catch me if you can! AA Bronson + General Idea, 1968–2018, which includes a pop-up a pop-up bookshop featuring printed material and ephemera by AA Bronson and General Idea. SIEGESSÄULE editor Joey Hansom met with the artist to find out more about the two events, as well about his thoughts on Berlin, where he has been living since 2013.

What is it like to get a retrospective while simultaneously presenting a new installation?

Well, the works in the installation at KW are all from the last ten years, but there's nothing I would really call “new”. And at the so-called retrospective at Esther Schipper, there's some new work. (Laughter) So that mixes it up a little bit. To tell the truth, it's extremely stressful to do the two shows at once – but it's kind of nice, because I can present two completely different sides of myself.

How so? 

The two exhibitions are enormously different from each other. Garten der Lüste is performative and atmospheric, and it has sound. The retrospective is more of a conventional gallery show.

If you look at the history of 20th-century art, there are two main ways of displaying it: one is the typical white cube with some objects on the walls or on the floor, and the other is this very environmental, immersive kind of style. The white cube sort of took over, but I think this more immersive approach to exhibition spaces is rapidly coming out again.

I've heard many artists and creative minds say that the relaxed pace of Berlin affects their productivity. You still seem to be quite active, especially for someone who has nothing to prove. How have you found Berlin for your creativity? 

Berlin is a fantastic place for artists. Space is relatively cheap. There are all sorts of craftspeople, especially in Eastern Europe, who have traditions that are lost in the West, especially in North America: stone carving, gilding, all sorts of old-fashioned crafts are much more available here. Also, there is a fantastic community of artists here. That is partially due to the DAAD, who started the Berliner Künstlerprogramm over 50 years ago, to promote Berlin as being a creative place in the middle of a Communist environment. They were bringing in very radical artists to live here, and about half of them stayed. Gradually, the visual art scene has just grown better and better, I think.

Of course, there is still the temptation to spend all your time with drugs and sex. It's very easy to do here. You have to have some self-discipline if you want to create. It's also nice to be able to party when you want to party.

The other thing I really love here is the FKK – the whole tradition of nudity in relation to nature in this city. All the parks and the clothing-optional lakes, where there seems to be a gay cruising spot every 50 steps. There's no moralizing around all of that, which is very refreshing to me as a North American. 

Interview: Joey Hansom

AA Bronson: Garten der Lüste
Apr. 26-29 at KW Institute for Contemporary Art
Opening: Apr. 25, 19:00

Catch me if you can! AA Bronson + General Idea, 1968–2018
Apr. 27 – May 26 at Esther Schipper
Opening: Apr. 27, 18:00




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