Laurie Anderson, elsewhere, and autumn in the air

Autumn in the air, and the lure of galleries, the clean walls, the sheen of matte concrete like hardened sand soft under foot.

This last week of August, the first week of September, like a funnel, shifting us back indoors. And so appropriately or not, a snippet of Laurie Anderson this morning from a great column in Art Forum called 500 words. My favorite word count.

I was feeling very detached in a lot of ways. Homeland currently begins with a quote from Aristophanes’s The Birds. Last summer, I performed it at the Herod Atticus at the Acropolis; it was the most hallucinatory experience to be quoting an ancient Greek play in an ancient theater in Greece. The theater was full of birds, and the story was, of course, about birds. There’s a part of Aristophanes’s play that describes a time before the world began. Since there was no land, only air, the birds were constantly in flight. The first bird was a lark, and one day, her father died, which was a colossal problem. Burying your parents was a big deal in Greek tragedy. What do you do with their bodies? So the lark is panicking, wondering what to do, and she finally decides to bury her father in the back of her own head. I describe this act as the beginning of memory, and to me, it had a haunting connection to our century, in terms of groundlessness—how much we’re detached from a sense of place. It’s all very theoretical, very digital. A lot of the stories in Homeland are about the disappearance of things. Record stores, phone booths—what it means when things turn into numbers, and how you deal with that.

The war was the thing that inspired this. And since this is Artforum, I’ll say I was really surprised at how quiet artists and intellectuals were, after Susan Sontag stopped talking. When I say Homeland is political, it’s in a very loose sense—though some of the work is quite specific. I’m sure some people will find it didactic. And I can see that reaction; it’s actually my biggest fear. As an artist, I want to create something that’s very open-ended and that gives people, myself first of all, a feeling of freedom. Something people could use as a way to get out of traps. I’m always looking for that: How do I get out of the most recent trap I’ve built?

Voyeur of a voyeur: Watching Laurie Anderson watch a film in the making by Laurie Anderson, Chelsea, 2007

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