John Giorno - Ugo Rondinone
Standing tall. Yesterday and today. More than ever. John Giorno, 78, son of Italian immigrants to New York City, has spanned decades. Never bowing to convention. A child of the Beat Generation raised on counter-culture in an America (still? forever?) riven by segregation, white supremacy, and the diktats of family values, social conformism and homophobia. Giorno is an apostle of dissent, a pioneer of a genre of poetry: the sound poem. Giorno is a survivor of every possible excess, a unique language duelist. “Whatever happens, it's part of the trip.” The concision of English, the implacable acuity of the poet's vision. A fighter whose weapon is his voice and that of hundreds of American and European poets, whose spoken texts he has collected and offered as objects of reflection, support and active listening to the hundreds of thousands of people who have subscribed to Dial-A-Poem or come within reach of any of the fifty-two albums released on the Giorno Poetry Systems (GPS) label that he founded in 1965. Poetry as a broad-spectrum virus. Infiltrate the brain, explore every possibility of the body and heart. To exhaustion. “I want to cum in your heart.” Then rebirth. Over and over. The Swiss artist, Ugo Rondinone, Giorno's partner for nearly two decades, has devised an exhibition-oeuvre that is extraordinary in its composition, intelligence, generosity and in the precision of its intent. In Paris to put the finishing touches to the event at the Palais de Tokyo, John Giorno and Ugo Rondinone gave their first interview to L'Officiel Art. An encounter with two great creators united in the love of art, poetry, freedom, and in love, period. Ugo Rondinone refused to include any of those collaborations in the exhibit, which demonstrates a sense of perspective with the subject. The exhibition attempts to define to what extent a poet can be presented to the public and how to proceed in doing so through the medium of art. The visitor may not be interested in poetry, but may be so in art, which becomes a potential vector. While the poetry genre has generally fallen into disfavor, art has benefitted from a resurgence of interest in the last thirty years. My aim was to revive curiosity for poetry, which has been marginalized worldwide, and restore its legitimacy in the public eye. I am lucky enough to have been with John Giorno for eighteen years and the research I undertook before plunging into the reality of the exhibition was an opportunity to discover many of his texts of which I knew absolutely nothing. It seemed important to me to share them with the widest possible audience. I organized the sequencing with a view to the physical imperatives of the venue. At the Palais de Tokyo, things are dictated by the space itself, so I adapted the material to the idea that the Palais de Tokyo was a house with eight bedrooms. Each of them has a specific surface area and a temperature all of its own. I then color-coded them to alternate between moods. I started with red, with monumental lettering to open the exhibit, and continued with the black and white of Thanx 4 Nothing, before moving onto the colors of the rainbow for the vast archives wall, and so on, until we complete the visit in the multi-colored space of the Giorno Poetry Systems (GPS), containing around fifty albums of poems spoken by their authors.