“The hardest thing to learn”


March 11th, 2015

Dorothy Iannone: You Who Read Me With Passion Must Forever Be My Friends invites the reader into an intimate world marked by candor. In her self-reflexive exploration of “ecstatic unity,” tensions exists between the male and female body, the push and pull of empowerment and surrender, and the role of submission in sexual liberation. This constellation of works by Iannone as well as by other artists and writers explores intersections of self-empowerment and interdependency within human relationships.  It begins with a hush—Adrienne Rich’s “The Unsaid Word”— interspersed throughout, the constellation continues with an all-encompassing and, at times, tender litany of titles in Annette Messager’s Terms Used for Women, Yoko Ono’s words of collective empowerment “yes my dear sisters we must learn/ to fight”, and concludes by switching off the lights in Dorothy Iannone’s piece Dialogue. 

—Natalie Dunn




       “The Unsaid Word,” 1974


She who has power to call her man

From that estranged intensity

Where his mind forages alone,

Yet keeps her peace and leaves him free,

And when his thoughts to her return

Stands where he left her, still his own,

Knows this the hardest thing to learn.





“I Am Whoever You Want Me To Be” from the Eros series, 1969-71





 An excerpt transcribed from the artist’s book Terms Used for Women, 1974


…my Julie…my duck…my beauty…my slut…my princess…my rat…my lion…my doll…my idiot…my woman…my sausage…my chick…my pet…my beloved…my little chickie…my goddess…my queen…my joie de vivre…my snoring bitch…my sun…my whore…my hole…my rabbit…my heart…my bourgeiouse…my chouchou…my chick…my little urchin…my little lamb…my conquest…my yound madam…my heart…my damsel…my bean pole…my tart…my adored one…my dog… my little devil… my kitten…my jewel…my mechanic… my sweet…my whore…my piece…   my granny…my kiki…my tender little girl…my dear…my demon…my darling…my doe…my tease…my grasshopper…my wily woman…my other half…my wench…my old lady…my girl…my beguine…my beast…my mommy…my bitch…my flame…my creature…my mouse…my damsel…my strumpet…my female gigolo…my siren…my planet…my cutie pie…my child…my hen…my tiny one…my hot body…my chick…my hooker…my hag…my witch…my virago…my meter…my kid…   my sweetie, my gigolo, my bird, my hole, my kid, my mechanic, my rabbit, my chick, my winch, my heart, my adorned one, my lovely, my urchin, my whore, my pet, my sun, my demon, my benguine, my love, my loved-one, my tenderness, my jewel, my baby, my darling, my caprice, my flirt, my friend, my cupid, my lamb, my little rat, my cutie-pie, my teddy bear, my swine….   Convolvulus, doudou, my sunflower, volcano, my elf, wolf, my crocodile, my violin, loulou, my sun, my treasure, my first, cannibal, kitten, youyou, my flame, blue, butterfly, kitty, kiki, tomcat, bird…





“Freedom,” 1970


Freedom O Freedom

That’s what we fight for

And yes, my dear sisters

We must learn to fight


Freedom Video





 Surrender, 1980







Excerpt from “Self Expression Is Sacred and Fatal: Statements,” 1992


The fear of sex and death is the same. Attraction and fear move back and forth. Which is the cause and which is the effect? It’s important to know. Turrenne was standing on his horse ready to go to battle. He said to his horse, which was really his unconscious, “You tremble, carcass, but you would tremble even more if you knew where I am going to take you.” It is at this moment, the thrill of danger, that the erotic impulse is activated. The thrill is erotic presence, that all-or-nothing feeling. You either resist or let go. If it terrorizes you, it means the resistance is too much. There is the refusal to go to battle with the unconscious. I become paralyzed by the fear. In a woman, sex comes when she loses control. In a man, it comes from asserting control. In sex you lose control and it can be terrifying. By extension, the relationship of Turenne to his horse is an S & M image. Turenne was the artist. The artist is the sadist and afraid of his own sadism of inflicting death. Is it murder or suicide? It depends on how you feel. Think of the bird ensnared by the snake. Nobody has ever proved that the bird suffers from his fear. Who says that the bird doesn’t enjoy it, that there’s not a sexual thrill? That there’s not ecstasy in death? That the bird dies fulfilled, as he’s gobbled up. One way or the other, the ransom of fear is death. Don’t forget the masochist loves a sadist and the sadist loves a masochist, and the prisoner is so helpless and desperate that all he has left is to fall in love with his jailer.





Flora and Fauna, 1973



I am the level you have longed for.  Without me you have no root in the world

Because I exist you are happy.  You love me always more and more

I am dangerous too

There is almost no further need for argument between us.  You are almost satisfied.  I encourage your direction

When I am present, you delight in your great fortune

When I am away, you are whole because I am in your heart

You have come from a long distance to find me.  You found me only yesterday

First you thought I was your emperor, then god. Now I am your Italian woodland deity, sometimes your centaur

Already my favorite meal is spaghetti bolognese, green salad and red wine.  Someday we may meet in Italy

I am your deepest lover

You cannot resist me

You cover my body with kisses

You touch me as often as possible.  I am infinitely adorable

My face is bright and wise and intelligent and beautiful

I am the only one

I am myself and I accept.  You know it and can love

No one suspects the depth of your devotion

You can never betray me

I too have waited for you

Is not the opposite of all I say also true.  I am dangerous





Selected Documents from The You and the I, 1967







“Antenna Jive,” 2009


Find a small tree, prepare the ground with blankets for you and your partner on either side of the tree. Get undressed, completely, get on your blanket, your partner facing you. Have the flats of your feet pressed together, the tree in between your pairs of legs. Both of you rest on your backs, and press your feet, press them with legs raised, then lowered. For a little while work together in this meditation of pressing and moving legs and feet with the tree quietly growing between them. Take notes about how you’re feeling.   Make it clear ahead of time that he or she working with you is free to do, say, sing, whatever they want, so long as you keep the bottoms of your feet connected around the tree. My boyfriend Rich did this with me, singing, humming, and finally masturbating, sitting up and smearing his semen on the bark. His orgasm PUSHED our feet together at a critical moment of note taking for me, good for my note taking. Let this (Soma)tic Exercise have as much freedom for the two of you as possible, the frequency given and taken and shared with the tree in between you, a living antenna between you, pulling nutrients from the earth and sun rays. The tree between us is where the notes came most clearly to me. WHATEVER YOU DO please do not give any additional instructions to your partner, let THEM do EXACTLY what they want to do once you’re both on the ground naked together with the tree in between you. THEIR freedom to express themselves depends upon this poem as much as your feet pressing together around the tree. But take notes, take many many notes.





 Dialogues I, 1967





1. Poems: Selected and New, 1950-1974, Adrienne Rich. Norton. 1974.

2. Dorothy Iannone: You Who Read Me With Passion Must Forever Be My Friends. Siglio Press. 2014.

3. Annette Messager: Word For Word. Distributed Art Publishers. 2006.

4. Yoko Ono: Yes. Harry N Abrams Inc. 2000.

5. Art, Love, Friendship: Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Together & Apart, Thomas McEvilley. McPherson & Co. 2010.

6. Deconstruction of the Father/ Reconstruction of the Father, Louise Bourgeois. The MIT Press. 2000.

7. Dorothy Iannone: You Who Read Me With Passion Must Forever Be My Friends. Siglio Press. 2014.

8.  October: The Second Decade 1986-1996. Rosalind Krauss et al, editor. The MIT Press. 1997.

9. Beautiful Marsupial AfternoonCAConrad. Wave Books. 2012.

10. Dorothy Iannone: You Who Read Me With Passion Must Forever Be My Friends. Siglio Press. 2014.