Laurie Anderson

The blog has been rather catatonic for the past few weeks, essentially fulfilling that stereotype of the medium: new blogs get-it-on for just a few months, because everything's fresh - but after that, nothing.

Well, maybe the book of life will say so in a year, but my intentions run to the contrary. So for now, I'll only say: the dog ate my homework (with a promise to pick up the pace, even though the DC art scene beats weakly during these lazy days of summer).

But something else was going on: I trekked about Peru, then returned Stateside to Sequoia National Park followed by the task of getting ready for a documentary screening this Friday, which includes a new film by this frosh filmmaker. Which rather feeds into the actual preface of today's posting, and an odd one at that: I'm most anxious to share the fact that Laurie Anderson is in town Friday too, yet if she's not your cup of tea, there's that little film I made running at the same time. (This conflict bummed me out the moment I heard, yet I'm of course more excited to get my film up on a screen.)

Laurie Anderson needs no introduction to some, but frankly confuses most as sounding rather like the name of an ex-wife to Burt Reynolds, instead of the actual wife she is to Lou Reed. Nonetheless, within the nebulous realm of "performance art" and its very genre if you can call it that, her oeuvre dates back to the early days of the form when the field was wide open. From vocoders on her voice, to her stage works incorporating multimedia visuals, to her fusion of popular music with the avant-garde, she deserves notice as the true pioneer of performance art. Yet also there was something, all along, that set her apart from the sideways burgeoning realm of performance art: She infused a classical sense of humor without pretension, fulfilling the legacy of the very unexpected thing she nailed down as artiste: the craft of the monologist. Anywhere from the great Mark Twain, to her contemporary colleague Spaulding Gray, you could find in this format witty insights about our "American experience" that seem now, cynical as we are, filled with wry innocence.

And as the years have passed, one might rightly question her vitality. As a case in point, she was on The Late Show with David Letterman last night, and delivered a highly politicized, mostly-spoken, and sorta-sung musical number that simply seemed strange (and probably sounded like mumbling to the tourist audience). She didn't have control of the set and setpieces as she usually does, and her instrumentalists basically backed her like a common rock band. I suppose that in private, or in any case within the ease of a documentary interview, she would explain that mounting large multimedia productions no longer works, or that she's not up to it in her autumn years. But the inevitable truth is that musically laundered ruminations coming out of nowhere are dramatically problemmatic.

Having said all that, I do think (a sad thought) that she still has no equal in the peculiar niche she founded, reminding that performance art for all its promise never matured well into a marketable medium (to venues or most importantly to our tastes). We still abide by common strictures of entertainment, don't we?

All of that was meant to make the case that there's nowhere better to be than the Laurie Anderson "concert" at the wonderful Birchmere Music Hall of Alexandria on Friday at 7:30 p.m., where you can ingest Musique concrète-infused ruminations on Middle East policy while chowing down a rack of ribs on their red-checkered community tables.  Tickets still appear to be available.

But if for some reason you don't make it there, then...

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