Laurie Anderson, the US musician, composer, inventor, painter and multi-media performance artist, likes not being pigeonhole-able.
“Jobs aren’t that important to me,” she said with a big grin yesterday, “except for practicing the violin ... No one asked me what I wanted to do [when I was young], so I never decided.”
The 64-year old is in Taipei for a performance of her musical-theater piece Delusion at the National Concert Hall tomorrow night as part of the NTCH’s annual Taiwan International Festival of the Arts.
Commissioned by the 2010 Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver, Canada, and the Barbican Center in London, Delusion is an exploration of the stories we tell ourselves, about our families, ourselves and our world, as well as the questions we ask.
Compared to some of Anderson’s past productions, it’s a rather stripped down show, at least technologically. Accompanying herself on an electronic violin and synthesizer, and with the use of video projections on a variety of screens, Anderson weaves an engaging and thought-provoking series of tales into an epic narrative.
Just as it is hard to pigeonhole Anderson because she works in so many media and forms of expression, describing Delusion is also difficult.
She told a press conference at the National Theater yesterday afternoon that Delusion is a series of stories about what we want and how we define ourselves through words and the stories we tell ourselves.
“Delusion is all about stories, it’s 20 short stories and lots of images. The title, Delusion, means a kind of mental mistake, like an illusion is a visual mistake,” she said. “The kinds of thinks I’ve seen in life that are a bit different than they are. It’s like a novel, with lots of characters: animals, a priest, teachers, about 100 people.”
WHEN: Tomorrow at 7:30pm
WHERE: National Concert Hall, 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
ADMISSION: The only remaining tickets are NT$1,200, available at the NTCH box office, www.artsticket.com.tw and 7-Eleven ibon kiosks
Anderson said the piece was dedicated to her mother.
“She gave an amazing speech on her deathbed, all of her children, all eight of us surrounding her and she gave a really powerful speech like stepping up with a microphone speaking about history, very powerful. But the language kept breaking up. And so she would talk about all the animals she could see on the ceiling in her hallucinations ... So it’s dedicated to my mother and to the way we try to construct a world through words — and the stories we tell about ourselves and about others,” Anderson explained.
It’s also a pictorial work, she said, with lots of projections: “It looks like a big painting.”
She also said it begins with an ending, drawing on the Greek fable of the donkey and the carrot.
“The carrot and the donkey — you go into the future through a series of rewards ... Like most people, as an artist I have some goals. If I go there I can get this, if I go there I can get this ... and so go into the future. So Delusion starts with the story of the donkey and the donkey dies — it says ‘I don’t care about this mechanism, I’m tired, good-bye.’”
“When this mechanism is gone, how do you go on?’ she asked.
Explaining all the topics in the wide-ranging Delusion is as complicated as trying to explain Anderson’s career in just a few sentences, but it all boils down to story-telling in some form, which she alluded to in a story about her interactions with NASA.
“I was asked by NASA to be the first artist in residence [in 2003]. I think they asked me because of my technical reputation and thought I would do something sexy like bounce a light beam to the dark side of the moon. But one, I was burned out on technology and two, they were already doing giant artworks in a way. So when I told them I was going to write a long poem, they were very disappointed — but I learned a lot there, about robotics, about ways to think, about the universe, so I thought a poem [her 90-minute monologue The End of the Moon] was the best way to do it.”