BEST OF 2015: artist Ugo Rondinone and the legendary poet John Giorno at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris
In celebration of Ugo Rondinone’s magnificent exhibition “I love John Giorno” at the Palais de Tokyo, an exclusive interview between the artist and his muse, the legendary poet John Giorno.
Numéro: So how did an artist born in Switzerland in 1964 end up meeting a New York legend born in 1936?
John Giorno: In 1997 Ugo asked me if I’d take part in one of his exhibitions, after having been to one of my performances. The idea behind his installation was pretty amazing: speakers arranged in trees, which emitted not music, but poetry. Ugo wanted it to be my words. So we talked. We drank more than we should have. And we got stoned, obviously. And then we became lovers. It’s as simple as that. And it’s been thus for the last eighteen years…
How did the idea for this exhibition come about, the portrait of the poet, the artist, but also of the man John Giorno?
Ugo Rondinone: At the turn of the millennium I found out that John had been keeping personal archives since the 1960s.
They were classified by year and carefully stored in boxes. This treasure is the very source of the exhibition. It provided the material to make the works, particularly the big colourful tableaux.
John Giorno: I was very young when I started storing up this documentation. It was 1965 and I was already hanging out with writers from the Beat generation, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs... We were all totally broke at the time, and the idea of preserving what little we had seemed logical to us. So I started gathering texts, magazines and writings in these boxes that I would keep at the big family home that belonged to my parents. When they died after having lived there for fifty years, I had to move them someplace else, and that’s when Ugo discovered them… and threw himself into the pharaonic business of scanning several thousand documents. More than 11,000 I think [laughs].