Contemporary American Fiction

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Laurie Anderson

I’m including a sampling of Anderson’s work.  Feel free to watch as many as you’d like and link to more on YouTube as the spirit moves you.

Critic Mel Gordon has noted that Anderson aims to create performances that present the raw material of the performer’s life without lapsing into autobiography.*  To create this effect, her performances use, in her words, “systems of pairing” to create a “spiralling dialectic.”  As you watch the videos and read the excerpts from “Stories from the Nerve Bible” note the combination of the following pairings:

-artist as person/character
-language/sound
-private/public
-memory/fantasy
-audio/visual space
-male/female
-nineteenth/twentieth century musical instrumentation
-history/prophecy
-filmic/live presentation

How does she combine these things?  Why do you think she does it?  What effect does it produce?

O, Superman, 1981 (video) Studio version with limited commentary

O, Superman, 1981 (video) Live performance

Same Time Tomorrow, (video) Live performance

The Lost Art of Conversation, 2007 (with Lou Reed) (video)

Language is a Virus, 1984 (From concert film, “Home of the Brave”)

Zero and One, 1984 (From concert film, “Home of the Brave”)

Difficult Listening Hour, (this performance contains a description of an airplane’s near crash that resonates with the near-crash landing in White Noise“)

National Anthem, 1990, (One of Anderson’s PSA’s.  Video quality for this one is poor.)

LA Times Review of Anderson’s forthcoming Album “Homeland”

Laurie Anderson is Bored with the Avant-Garde (salon.com interview with Anderson about “Homeland,” Lady Gaga, and a recent performance that used pitches only dogs could hear, which she performed on her 63rd birthday: “I realized that if I’m an average person and sleeping an average amount of time, then I realized that on that birthday I had been asleep for 21 years. I thought, “Today is the day my dream self has become an adult. It can drink. It can drive.” So it was kind of a celebration of that, too.”)

The Nova Convention, 1978, avant-garde performance art conference that includes Laurie Anderson, William S. Burroughs, Patti Smith, and Allen Ginsburg

*Mel Gordon, “Laurie Anderson: Performance Artist.”  The Drama Review

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