The making of famous and glamorous artists : the role of FILE megazine in the work of General Idea

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Lamensdorf, Jennie Kathlene

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From 1972 until 1989, the artist trio General Idea produced FILE Megazine. The first eight issues of FILE, published from 1972 – 1975, are the focus of this thesis. They stand apart from the later issues because their covers hijacked the look and iconic logo of Life magazine. The red rectangle with white block letters attracted the attention of Time Inc. and resulted in a lawsuit. Rather than fight the corporate giant, General Idea changed their logo after the autumn 1975 issue. FILE, like many artists’ magazines, is typically discussed in idealistic language that privileges the subversive or democratic intentions of the publication while neglecting its significance as a device for the promotion of community and collaboration. I argue that General Idea envisioned FILE as a utopian project intended to produce the world they sought to live in. Authors frequently employ FILE as a tool to discuss General Idea’s work, focusing on it as a mirror or archive of a larger project and emphasizing FILE’s humorous, bawdy, and irreverent aspects. In this thesis, I situate FILE in terms of its historical, art historical, and theoretical frameworks. I pay particular attention to General Idea’s early involvement in the mail art network, FILE’s relationship to 1960s and 1970s artists’ magazines and magazine art, the contemporaneous social and political climate in Canada, and General Idea’s investigation and employment of theoretical frameworks culled from Marshall McLuhan’s text The Medium is the Message and Roland Barthes’ book Mythologies.




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