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Art, Life and Laurie Anderson.

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Think of a quote that discusses the relationship between art and life. Have you got one? The one that almost always comes to my mind belongs to Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet, novelist, dramatist and critic — ” Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Wilde also encouraged our artistic selves in this manner, “one should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” But two quotes which really speak to me about the relationship between art and life belong to Pablo Picasso and John Dewey respectively…

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

“Art has been the means of keeping alive the sense of purposes that outrun evidence and of meanings that transcend indurated habit.”

If you are looking for an artist whose life is a work of art, whose art cleanses our souls, keeping alive our sense of purpose and meaning, then you don’t need to go much further than Laurie Anderson. As the Rolling Stone puts it,“Laurie Anderson is a singer-songwriter of crushing poignance – a minimalist painter of melancholy moods who addresses universal themes in the vernacular of the commonplace.” Wow. Anderson’s music is evocative and provocative, lyrically seductive in the ways it speaks to your emotions but there is also something deeply physical about her music and I am reminded about how sound is so central to our consciousness, how rhythm and beats imitate the beating of our heart and the movements of our pulse. This is how music, as a form of art and performance, connects human beings with each other.

Laurie Anderson is also a creative pioneer. Visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronics whiz, vocalist, and instrumentalist, she is known as a visionary in the use of technology in the arts, bringing to the arts to the most unfamiliar (you’d think) of places – NASA (their first and only artist in residence), Applied Minds to create an artwork to be displayed at the Guggenheim in New York this winter, and various prestigious cultural events, composing the music for the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and the World Expo in Aichi, Japan in 2005, as well as the acclaimed multimedia project O Zlozony/O Composite for the Paris Opera Ballet.

Anderson’s first performance-art piece was a symphony played on car horns in 1969. She has also played violin while wearing ice skates with blades frozen in ice. Yet many of her early performances and pieces remain on limited release or through private compilations. Moving in a group of some of the most avant-garde performers of the 1970s and 1980s, Anderson continued to build her craft, collaborating on film scores and productions as well as art installations, composing albums and taking singing lessons. In 1991 she appeared inThe Human Face a feature arts documentary directed by artist-filmmakers Nichola Bruce and Michael Coulson for BBC TV. Anderson was the presenter in this documentary on the history of the face in art and science. Her face was transformed using latex masks and digital special effects as she introduced ideas about the relationship between physiognomy and perception.

In case that was not enough, Anderson has also complete spoken word albums, audiobooks and written a supplemental article on the cultural character of New York City for the Encyclopædia Britannica and created a number of multimedia presentations, always exploring the effects of technology on human relationships and communication. One of my favorite pieces features Anderson and Lou Reed, entitled ‘Lost art of conversation’, a duet of vocals and guitar. Click here for a glimpse – it is wonderful!

In 2007, Anderson was awarded the 2007 Gish Prize for her “outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to humankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.” Art and Life, indeed.

Laurie Anderson will be performing from 7pm on June 6th at the Lincoln Center. Tickets are $20 adults and $15 students/seniors (60+), available from the Lincoln Center Box Office by calling 970-221-6730, visiting them at 417 West Magnolia Street or going online to LCTIX.

See you there!

With thanks to Denis Collette…!!! for his beautiful river and jimdavidson for his image from the Baltimore Visionary Museum.

Kirsten Broadfoot