‘In the early 1960s, I had the good fortune of meeting a lot of artists. Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Trisha Brown and Carolee Schneeman. These artists and painters were the real influence on me, as a poet. Whether it was a performance or a painting, they did what arose in their minds, and made it happen. It occurred to me that poetry was seventy five years behind painting and sculpture and dance and music. I said to myself, if these artists can do it, why can’t I do it for poetry?’ 1 John Giorno
I Love John Giorno is the first retrospective of the life and work of the American poet John Giorno (born 1936, lives and works in New York), a key figure of the American underground scene of the 1960s. The exhibition is conceived by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone (born 1964, lives and works in New York) as a work in its own right.
‘I structured the exhibition in eight chapters, each representing a layer of Giorno’s multifaceted work. Taken as a whole, they reflect how he works and help us to understand the dual influences that American culture and Buddhism had on his life and art,’ 2 Rondinone explains.
‘Rondinone has crafted this exhibition with the rigour of a physiognomist, shaping Giorno’s inner life as a mirror of his work. Palais de Tokyo will be transformed into a ‘hall of mirrors’, where visitors are invited to explore the labyrinth of a life reflected in a thousand shards of mirror, from previously unseen early Warhol films to Buddhist thangkas and Giorno’s poem paintings.’ Florence Ostende
Giorno was an iconic character in Andy Warhol’s early films who found inspiration in the appropriation of found images by Pop artists and captured the real-life colloquial language of advertisements, television, newspapers and street slang. A leading figure in the lineage of the Beat Generation, he revived the genre of ‘found poetry’ and worked to make poetry accessible to all.
Since the early 1960s, Giorno has seen poems as viruses that must be transmitted to as many people as possible. His 1968 seminal work Dial-A-Poem allowed people to listen to poems over the telephone simply by dialling a number and quickly received over a million calls.
Whether they are recorded on an album, painted on a canvas, delivered on stage or deconstructed in the pages of a book, Giorno considers poems as images that can be endlessly reproduced using different technologies. ‘In the age of sampling, cut and paste, digital manipulation of text, appropriation as art form – which finds its peak in hip-hop and the textual orgy of the World Wide Web – the world is finally catching up with techniques and styles that Giorno pioneered several decades ago.’ 3
Combining poetry, visual arts, music and performance, the exhibition reveals the significant influence of Giorno’s life and work on several generations of artists who have portrayed him, from Andy Warhol’s cinematic masterpiece Sleep (1963) and its remake by Pierre Huyghe, to R.E.M, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Elizabeth Peyton, Françoise Janicot, Verne Dawson, Billy Sullivan and Judith Eisler.
The section dedicated to Giorno Poetry Systems (1965- 1993) is curated by Matthew Higgs who invited the artists Angela Bulloch and Anne Collier. It retraces how Giorno Poetry Systems produced, released and promoted more than 50 LPs and albums by 150 artists, musicians, poets and performers, including Frank Zappa, Debbie Harry, William S. Burroughs and Phillip Glass.
Famous for his anthropomorphic sculptures, black masks and hyper-realistic clowns, for this exhibition, Rondinone has reinvented the retrospective format as portraiture and recaptures a form of spirituality through the connections between art and poetry.
‘The title I Love John Giorno is a collective «I» in which Ugo Rondinone invites each of us to share and to feel the spiritual and political commitment of an iconic figure of American counterculture. This exhibition is not just the first Giorno retrospective; it is a declaration of love that heralds the invention of a new genre.’ Florence Ostende
With: Anne Collier, Angela Bulloch, Verne Dawson, Judith Eisler, John Giorno, Mark Handforth, Matthew Higgs, Pierre Huyghe, Françoise Janicot, Scott King, Elizabeth Peyton, Ugo Rondinone, Erik Satie, Michael Stipe, Billy Sullivan, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Andy Warhol.
John Giorno will also be presenting two performances in conjunction with the exhibition as part of the Paris Autumn Festival:
John Giorno Live, with John Giorno, on 18 November 2015 at Palais de Tokyo. This unique event featuring John Giorno is a unique opportunity to experience his extensive performative repertoire through a selection of poems, some of which have never been performed before. Giorno has created a sound environment of poems recorded in the studio with Bob Moog, the legendary inventor of the synthesiser, especially for this event. Films featuring Giorno will be projected on a continuous loop as an accompaniment to the live poems, including Ron Mann’s Poetry In Motion (1982), Michel Negroponte’s No Accident (1995) and Peter Ungerleider’s Loving Kindness (1995).
Streetworks by John Giorno will also run throughout the exhibition period and will see people on roller skates handing out Giorno’s poems to visitors and those passing by the Palais de Tokyo, in a revival of his involvement in the ‘Street Works’ performances initiated by a group of artists and poets in the streets of New York in 1969. These performances are jointly organised by the Palais de Tokyo and the Paris Autumn Festival.
John Giorno will also be presenting a performance about Andy Warhol, followed by a conversation with Florence Ostende, on 23 November at the Centre Pompidou-Metz as part of the Warhol Underground exhibition, as well as performing at the Maison Rouge on 25 November.
The dialogue continues with Warhol Unlimited, an exhibition dedicated to Andy Warhol at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris from 2 October 2015 and a solo exhibition of Giorno’s work at the Almine Rech gallery from 21 November 2015.
1 Taken from Hans Ulrich Obrist’s interview with John Giorno in 2002, in Hans Ulrich Obrist: Interviews Volume 2, Milan: Charta, 2010.
2 Taken from Florence Ostende’s conversation with the artist in December 2014.
3 Marcus Boon, ‘Introduction’, in Subduing Demons in America, Selected Poems 1962-2007, Soft Skull Press, New York, 2008, p.X.