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General Idea

About the artist | Video clips | Printer friendly

Video still from <b>Test Tube</b> by General Idea

General Idea, Test Tube, (1979), 5:29 min. excerpt from the 28:15 min. original.

Video still from <b>Shut the Fuck Up</b> by General Idea

General Idea, Shut the Fuck Up, (1985), 5:37 min. excerpt from the 14:00 min. original.

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About these works

Test Tube (1979)
Distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix.

Test Tube was produced for television by De Appel, a centre for contemporary Art in Amsterdam, while the members of General Idea–AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal–were artists in residence there.

“The production of the videotape Test Tube marks a change in General Idea’s media strategy. Previously, the media (which in the collective’s conception includes the general public, thereby putting performances under the same strategy) had been conscripted for the construction of the Pavillion [The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, please see About General Idea]. Test Tube extends the media strategy to artistic activity. Felix Partz succinctly described the aim of this video: ‘But art remains a curious and elitist drink. Despite its unique flavour and heady cultural properties, it has never been effectively exploited.’ The use of art which is both publicly and economically effective is treated in five chapters and on three levels. Each chapter is introduced by General Idea, sitting at the Colour Bar Lounge of the Pavillion; they explicate the general theme of the whole and each of the chapters in three-way discussion. Next we see various scenes of a television drama focusing on the career potential of a young New York artist: she is wooed by a powerful gallery and courted by the in-crowd of collectors and critics, but not without cost in her personal life. An advertising spot follows each chapter, taking up its respective theme through the vehicle of the Colour Bar Lounge or one of the multiples. The constant emphasis on the power of the media and advertising intercut with reflections on the role, tasks, and potential responses of the artist makes this videotape historically significant. On the threshold of the 1980s, General Idea has anticipated the essential thematic fields that will characterize the art of that decade” (Malsch 34-35).

Shut the Fuck Up (1985)
Distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix.

Shut the Fuck Up is General Idea’s latest video work. Using ironic and iconic excerpts from television and film from the 1960s, such as The Joker character from Batman and part of the historic footage of artist Yves Klein's painting and performance from Mondo Cane, General Idea examine the relationship between the mass media and the artist. Recalling Klein’s use of “IKB”–International Klein Blue or chroma-key blue–they revisit their own performance of XXX blue (1984), at Centre d’art contemporain in Geneva, where the artists painted large Xs using stuffed poodles dipped in blue paint. The video reveals the meaning of language and iconography in their work, and provides some background for their choice of poodles as mascot and metaphor. As Felix Partz comments: “Those who live to please, must please to live.”

In Shut the Fuck Up, General Idea underline the media's insistence that only gossip and spectacle make art and artists interesting to the public. On the contrary, General Idea point out, artists are no fools, nor do they operate within "a passive yet cleverly deceitful, alienated cult of the imbecile." Jorge Zontal has the last word: “When there is nothing to say, shut the fuck up.”

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