Glamour is Theft: A User’s Guide to General Idea (2012)

Glamour is Theft: A User’s Guide to General Idea, Toronto: Art Gallery of York University, 2012.

As this book currently is in sale, the introduction only is reproduced here.

Click to read

Back cover blurb: Glamour is Theft harkens back to another revolutionary slogan of the nineteenth-century: “Property is theft.” Could it be, as General Idea wrote in 1975, that “Glamour replaces Marxism as the single revolutionary statement of the twentieth century.” This book is the first attempt to examine General Idea’s “pageantry of camp parody” through the logic of its mythic system. In this system, there is one concept: Glamour; one operation: reversibility; one technique: cut-up; one strategy: theft; one tactic: camouflage.

Design: Barr Gilmore

Design: Barr Gilmore

Glamour is Theft was written as if in the period that the work was made (1969 - 1978), with no reference in the notes or otherwise outside what the artists themselves read. Thus written in the 1970s, it is a structuralist book as if written by structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss or a semiological book authored by Roland Barthes. Given these sources, General Idea's work was reduced to a structural figure (see p 143) or various semiological tables (see p 97). Akin to discovering the minimum number of operations by which a work functioned (as in Stan Douglas: Discordant Absences), the book was a philological exercise to discover the mythic system operating all General Idea's work: hence, the reduction to the idea of "one."

Not only the books produced by the Art Gallery of York University, marketing material as well mimics the procedures of the exhibited artists and become an oblique form of interpretation rather than just standard didactic devices. On the one hand, this is one of the ways the institution itself performs copying the strategies of the artists the AGYU works with. On the other, you could look at it as an extended form of a writer's practice.

Click to see teaser campaign.

Click to see General Idea newsletter (ELF! mimicking FILE mimicking LIFE, and posing as a scandal tabloid. Of course, I wrote the exposé articles. Design by Ken Ogawa.)