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John Giorno's Dial-A-Poem Now on View at MoMA

Opening Friday April 7th, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, presents John Giorno’s seminal artwork Dial-A-Poem (1968 - present) in a dedicated gallery within the museum’s 4th floor permanent collection, for long-term display.  Visitors can pick up a phone and hear one of several hundred poems read by artists, poets, and musicians such as Vito Acconci, Kathy Acker, Laurie Anderson, Amiri Baraka, Bernadette Meyer, Joe Brainard, John Cage, Patti Smith, William Burroughs, and John Giorno, among many others.  The installation also features notes and documentation with additional historical context.

There is a long history between Dial-A-Poem and MoMA.

Giorno first showed it in the context of MoMA's landmark 1970 show Information, curated by Kynston McShine, one of the first international surveys of Conceptual Art. With a massive apparatus of phones and answering machines rigged up to audio tapes of poems, Dial-A-Poem received almost a quarter million calls during its time at MoMA, delivering poetry to tens of thousands of people.

In 2012, Dial-A-Poem returned to MoMA in the context of the exhibition Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language, curated by Laura Hoptman. More than four decades had passed, so John was able to update the piece by creating individual phones, each one containing a computer chip that stored 200 poems. Visitors picked up a phone and heard a single poem, delivered randomly. In 2018, MoMA acquired Dial-A-Poem for its collection.

And now, Dial-A-Poem is installed in MoMA's permanent collection, in Gallery 414, woven into the museum's story about art made from the 1940s to the 1970s. As you wander from Gallery 413 ("Touching the Void," with works by Marcel Broodthaers, Eva Hesse, Lygia Clark, Bruce Nauman) to Gallery 415 ("Divided States of America," with Emory Douglas, Melvin Edwards, Faith Ringgold, Martha Rosler), sit down, pick up a phone, and listen to a poem!

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