Laurie Anderson – National Concert Hall – 14-05-17 – Review
Laurie Anderson Residency: The Language of the Future
Three new and exclusive performances at the National Concert Hall
Saturday 13th, Sunday 14th & Monday 15th May 8.00pm
This was the second night of the Laurie Anderson residency at the National Concert Hall. In truth, the audience were not quite sure what to expect from the performer. Anderson is known for her crossover hit O Superman, but her career has gone in many directions. Last year she release her first feature film in almost 30 years; Heart of a Dog. The film was a musing on life and death, giving the viewer a variety of images while Anderson narrated.
Anderson started the second day of her residency with a performance of her ‘Music For Dogs’ on the grounds of the National Concert Hall. It is a 20 minute long piece that can be enjoyed by humans, but is ideally suited for dogs, with sections of it that can only be heard by the canine ear! She was also interviewed by Tony Clayton-Lea ‘On Art & Politics’ at 6pm, so they are certainly getting their money’s worth from the performer!
The performances are part of her ongoing work The Language of The Future. On the second day, the main night time performance was billed as Talking Book and was a collection of stories from Laurie Anderson’s forthcoming book All the Things That I Lost in the Flood, which will be released later this year.
The night opened with a short musical piece by Anderson on violin and electronics. This was a brief introduction before she took her position at the centre podium to start the talk. One of the inspirations of the piece was a quote from William S. Burroughs ‘Language is a virus from outer space’, which Anderson enjoys as it supposes that language is a life form. She told of a performance she made in Japan, where she learned a phonetic version of the text in the local language, only to discover the version she learned was spoken by a man with a stutter! She also spoke of a CD Rom called Puppet Motel which allowed you to take Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky and alter the text to add your own names, locations and even plot lines, quickly creating your own masterpiece.
She talked of her time as NASA’s first and to date only artist-in-residence. It was an experience she enjoyed as when she arrived there was no clear structure to her job. She roamed the campus talking to scientists. She realised there is a clear comparison between artists and scientists as neither knows what they are looking for. Also, she thought experiments such as their Staircase to Space and the Greening of Mars could equally be at home in an art gallery as in a science lab.
The night continued with a discussion on Moby Dick, which she converted into an Opera. She talked of finding a copy of Herman Melville’s own bible, which had notes and insights scribbled into the margins, although they had been largely rubbed out by Melville’s wife.
She moved quickly from one topic to the next, with the audience hanging on her every word. She used large scale projections onto a screen to illustrate her points. They showed a variety of images, which related to the stories she told.
In total, she talked for 100 minutes on a wide range of topics. It would be difficult to categorise exactly what the night was, neither a reading, a talk nor a musical experience, although with elements of each. It is quite fitting for the artist herself as she moves between many different art forms. She is a fascinating woman and this night was an insight into her artistic process.
Her residency concludes tonight with Improv!, a night with Cellist Rubin Kodheli and Irish fiddle player Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh.