Sunday, March 06, 2005

"Art is for people who...

...want to use it." - Laurie Anderson. An interesting case (not the only one) of a performance artist that goes "unplugged". Laurie Anderson gained fame making huge solo multi-media shows. She often played the electric violin, but also sang, but also projected images, mixed sounds, remixed sounds, images, lights, words... And when in the early 90's audiences started expecting more of the cutting-edge hi-tech than anything else, L.A. backlashed - and took away nearly all the technology. In 1993, Anderson said: "People expect music and high-tech visuals. I think they're rather surprised that I'm asking them to think so much instead." And in 1996, she proved her point

Has it been working? Depends on the viewer, but this one thought (and explained in a pleasant poem-style review, that could have done without the poem form...) that it wasn't not quite enough in Anderson's last (2004-2005) show, "The End of the Moon". I think it's much more difficult to "get down to basics" than it may seem. After all, it is stepping down from a comfortable position which allowed her to speek louder, to communicate in a more...overwhelming way. And when I'm overwhelmed - I'm in, am I not?

On Metroactive, there is an interesting article about her. Here are some updates on what she's been doing:

Most recently, she raised eyebrows when she did some rather unusual research for Happiness, including taking a job at McDonald's and living on an Amish farm.

"I've changed my life totally in the last year, more than I ever have in my whole life," says Anderson. "I decided to do everything outside. I was burning out on those screens, I just could not do it another second. That's why I'm doing this garden project in Japan. I'm also doing a lot of projects where I'm just walking places."

She doesn't mean walks around the block, either--she usually allows about 10 days for each one. The last walk she did was from Athens, where she had been working on a project for the Olympics, to Delphi. But it's not about the physical endurance--in typical slightly-odd-but-surprisingly-well-organized Anderson fashion, she tries to come up with a single idea and develop it over the course of one walk.

"I'm going 20 miles a day, three miles an hour--nothing. It's not to prove I can do this, because if I can't make my distance, I just call a cab. It's not like, 'Well, I marched from here to there!' It's more about trying to feel free, and trying to be free, and feel what that really is like," she says. "'Cause I honestly felt really trapped, and I think a lot of Americans do, too. You're free to what? Have a Coke or a Pepsi?"

I admire Laurie Anderson for the quiet, yet powerful way she thinks. Some examples from interviews:

Techno is music without a foreground. But that's all right. I've got plenty of things to do in the foreground.

I am more worried about turning into a schlump than into a prune [=becoming old and wrinkled].A schlump is someone who doesn't care about anything and who is just protecting their own turf, which is getting smaller and more meaningless, and then they disappear.

I like to be in groups of actual people, as opposed to their clones or their avatars or whoever they send out on the web to represent themselves.

[yes, that last one was about us, folks...]

Oh, and to give a you a hint of what sort of shows Laurie Anderson creates, here is another fairly recent review.

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