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INTRODUCTION
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G O S S I P:
T H E H A R D C O R E O F
A R T H I S T O R Y ?
In a 1974 interview for Gay Sunshine magazine, the poet John Giorno draws
attention to the currency of gossip about artists’ sex lives in the 1960s New
York art world.1 Such talk, he contends, is an inescapable feature of metro-
politan artistic life, as ‘‘everyone is always gossiping about what everyone
else is doing, like who’s making it with whom, who has done what to whom,
and all the weirdnesses’’ (G 159). Such is the humdrum discursive actuality
of bohemian life, and one that might be generalizable to countless other
fields of professional endeavor both before and since. But Giorno turns out
to show more than a usual investment in the value and significance of this
everyday talk. ‘‘Ordinarily it just seems like boring gossip,’’ he says, ‘‘but it
actually is the dynamic relationships between artists, between artists and
poets.’’ Rather than dismissing such talk in more customary fashion as dis-
cursive flotsam, then, Giorno sees it as a key form through which artists
and poets go about conducting their creative business. For him, gossiping
is a form of social activity which produces and maintains the filiations of
artistic community. But even more than this, he ventures, upping the criti-
cal ante somewhat, such gossiping might be approached as ‘‘the hardcore of
art history’’ (G 159). This is an interesting expression which signals Giorno’s
appreciation of gossip’s central importance for understanding art history
which resides, he suggests, in its capacity for revealing the art community’s
sexual secrets. Like pornography’s ‘‘explicit’’ representations, gossip’s nar-
ratives are capable of speaking in a relatively untrammeled manner about
the place of sexual intrigue in the American art world. As such, he argues,
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