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John Giorno's Dial-A-Poems at MoMA

Tue, 03/28/2023 - 09:50
John Giorno's Dial-A-Poem project is now the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
Courtesy of the John Giorno Foundation

As part of a continuous program of pocket exhibitions focused on its collection, the Museum of Modern Art will open a gallery devoted to John Giorno's Dial-A-Poem project on Friday, April 7. 

Dial-A-Poem was a free telephone hotline by which, beginning in 1968, callers could access instant poetry written and recited by Giorno's peers and recorded by him and played back on large industrial answering machines. Artists and writers such as John Cage, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Frank O'Hara, Barbara Guest, Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, Lenore Kandel, Vito Acconci, and many others participated. 

In a later 2012 version at MoMA, musicians and poets including Jim Carroll, David Byrne, Nick Cave, Amiri Baraka, Karen Findley, Husker Du, Deborah Harry, Patti Smith, and Tom Waits provided an updated mix with some of the original poets from days gone by.

The gallery will display ephemera associated with the project with notes and documentation on the arrangement of the poems. There will also be phones available with 200 randomized poems selected by the artist in 2012. He had an archive of thousands, according to the museum.

Giorno, who died in 2019, was a performance artist and poet himself, and the subject of Andy Warhol's film "Sleep." He and his partner at the time of his death, Ugo Rondinone, spent weekends and summers together on the North Fork.

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