PRINT February 2020

Joan Jonas

Film strip from Andy Warhol’s Sleep, 1963, 16 mm, black-and-white, silent, 321 minutes. John Giorno. © The Andy Warhol Foundation forthe Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY.

DIAL-A-POEM WAS SEMINAL, a most wonderful work. I will never forget the experience of picking up that black receiver, dialing the rotary phone, and listening to a poem, a continuation of the oral tradition through the distance. And this was just the beginning.

I attended many of John’s readings. He had a special way of performing his work, which I think had to do with his breath. Breathing in and out with the words in relation to the rhythm and pace of the poem. There was a continuous flow. An energy, quiet but powerful, as the sound filled the space. Although I had known John since the ’60s, it was only in the last few years that I felt a friendship. We were the same age. He was a warm and generous person. His spiritual practice was an inspiration to the community. A friend recently wrote me to say that of all of us, John was pure spirit.

Once, I told him I have a difficult time sleeping. John told me that he could fall asleep at any time in any place. I will remember him always in Andy Warhol’s Sleep. He was the star and always will be. 

Joan Jonas is an artist living in New York.