Written by Edit Jakab
Living legend Laurie Anderson, multimedia artist (“a totally meaningless term,” according to her), sculptor, painter, musician, writer, brainy and witty storyteller and much more, shared her incredible creative work and ideas with the Athens community the night of April 10th as part of the Special event series at the 45th Annual Athens International Film and Video Festival.
It was a packed house. Not a seat was left unfilled. Although the event began at 7:30, the line for it stretched far and wound down the steps of the Athena Cinema and out the front doors way before that time. The room was bursting with awe and excitement, an excitement that had been building for some time. Many in the audience bought their tickets well in advance.
During her 2-hour oratory of her career and life philosophies, Laurie graced us with many of her works. She began with "O Superman," a blast from the 80s that filled many of us in attendance with nostalgia. An eight and a half minute song that reached the British charts. She mentioned with humorous modesty that she, as a downtown NY dweller, had no idea what the UK charts were; she just liked to make what she liked. And that philosophy encapsulates most of her work.
“Sometimes you get so sick of hearing your own voice that you create another one,” she told the captive audience. One such voice, created using electronic filters, was a very low distorted one coming from the Clone, a three-foot tall, huge-headed character with small feet. This was her with a mustache, but it allowed her to get out her own point of view.
She showed us the section of the middle of her film “Heart of a Dog,” where there is a book, the “Tibetan Book of the Dead,” which talks about the bardo and Lolabelle, her piano playing dog passing through it.
She talked about her Guantánamo installation “Habeas Corpus” in collaboration with former Guantánamo detainee Mohammed el-Gharani.
Laurie Anderson explored her life as a sculptor and recounted to the audience that she never wants to come up with new shapes as there were enough shapes in the world already. She just gave them another function. And, she discussed her virtual reality piece, "Chalkroom," which played at the Ohio University's GRID Lab all week, and how she explored a long-simmering interest, disembodiment and getting lost in something that is not her.
Laurie Anderson is an artist because she wants to be free and do what she wants to do.
She left us with three pieces of “rules” by which she and her late husband Lou Reed lived by: “Don’t be afraid of anyone,” “Get a really good bullshit detector, and learn how to use it,” and “Be really tender.”
We were serenaded on our way to the opening reception by the Ohio University’s brass band playing “O Superman” on the street corner in front of City Hall.