JOHN GIORNO SLEEPWALKER
by Franck Gautherot
SLEEPTALKER PIERRE HUYGHE
On social media, I have two hashtags that get a little bit of attention. The second one is #gonefishing; I use it to tag anyone I know who has passed away. It is a kind of obituary page. I Google the dead person, screen grab his or her image and post it on Instagram. My memory card has been seriously overloaded as times go, chaining my people into links of shared moments gone. Mainly artists, I would say.
The primary hashtag is #trainsleeper. I use this one to tag people who forgot to keep control and fell asleep, whose image I stole surreptitiously in those early morning commuting trains.
I’ve heard that some smartphone companies don’t allow users to turn off the sound artificially reproducing the clic-clac of the analogic reflex camera. Mine allows me to get rid of it; I am silently stealing people’s image in their deep sleep.
The gallery of sleepers—grotesque, charming, ridiculous, pompous, strict, rigid, or in loss of control—sprawled across the seat put me in the great and embarrassing position of voyeur and thief.
Did Andy do it in 1963 while looping together the footage of John sleeping? Voyeur and thief, certainly as Pierre Huyghe did something similar in his 1998 Sleeptalking (d’après “Sleep”, 1963 de Andy Warhol accompagné de la voix de John Giorno). Do we steal on Instagram? We certainly do. Our only risk is to be censored
if by chance a bit of tit, dick, pubic hair arrives to the screen—erased immediately, hopefully.
Once I did a large monograph book on On Kawara (On Kawara: Whole and Parts, 1996) and my relationship with On’s numbers (One Million Years, the Today series of Date Paintings, One Hundred Years Calendar) was twisted to the point that every night when I woke up for a pee, it was inevitably 1:11, 2:34, 4:44, or 6:54 in orange-red on my digital clock. I became a digital sleep counter who fortunately never reached the dreadful 6:66. That has been posted on Instagram much later on and still, when sleep numbers come back.
In Pierre Huyghe’s film Sleeptalking, the camera focuses on John—something like thirty years later—in the same position in which he appeared in Warhol’s film. Huyghe processed his footage with subtle digital morphing software so that the features of Giorno’s elderly face melt into those of his youth. Giorno talks laconically of the past over the image.
Nobody cared or even asked John if he remembered what he dreamt while Warhol filmed him sleeping. Dreams were not the point. Non-action was at play as in Giacometti’s Femme debout II (1959–1960). Verticality versus horizontality; a male actor filmed lying down and a sculpture of a woman standing, cast together in a moment of eternity. Ugo loves John and curated him in Paris and now all New York City will get to know that. Ugo cast stone figures, John did not.
Rue de Seine, Paris, in the St. Germain neighborhood, Hôtel La Louisiane remembers all the famous bygone figures who stopped to sleep in here. Egyptian-born writer Albert Cossery slept there from 1945 until his death in 2008. He once told me that he bumped into his former lover, so happy to meet him again after years. Chatting frivolously, she said: “After I met you, I get married, had three kids, divorced and get married again and here I am now. And you, Albert?” “Me,” he replied, “as ever, I am still sleeping in the same room of the same hotel that you know, voilà!”
He slept all that time and was walking around St. Germain-des-Prés in his worn-out camel coat. High chiseled face, white shirt and tie, English shoes. John’s chiseled face is similar to Phillip King’s chiseled hands. Face and hands: tools for specific jobs. The face for casting the words out of the mouth, and the hands to tear metal sheets as easy as you crumple letter-size paper. Good night.
FRANCK GAUTHEROT is a Founding Curator at Le Consortium, Dijon.