Click a little button on the Museum of Modern Art's website and you may be greeted with a honking, haunting jam from Laurie Anderson or the calming words of John Ashbery: "A people chained to aurora / I alone disarming you / millions of facts of distributed light." The combination of music and literature that comes from the MoMA's Dial-A-Poem installation, part of the 'Ecstatic Alphabet / Heaps of Language' Exhibition running now until August 27th, is the best kind of crapshoot—emotionally jarring and always enriching. Patrons can dial any of the phones at the exhibit, click a button on the website or call the local New York number 347-POET001 at any time of day to receive a poem or musical work at random. Callers may be greeted with old favorites like William S. Burroughs, Frank O'Hara or Allen Ginsberg, more contemporary NYC poetry lumnaries like Miguel Piñero and Bob Holman or the music of Nick Cave, Hüsker Dü, Tom Waits or Philip Glass, along with many, many more.
This isn't the first appearance of Dial-A-Poem in New York. The original installation was the work of John Giorno, who began the work in 1968, and for about four years, people in the city could dial up a poem on their rotary phones. Many of the same poets and works from the original Dial-A-Poem set are featured in the 2012 MoMA version.
Ecstatic Alphabet / Heaps of Language is a multidisciplinary, multi-artist exhibition that explores the manipulation of language throughout sound, vision, graffiti and other various media. Among the works featured in the collection are Henri Chopin's combination of typographic and sound-recorded poems, Paul Elliman's reimagined soundscapes of the city and Paulina Olowska's imaginative collages.