A young Laurie Anderson with her revolutionary instrument, the tape-bow violin
Who doesn’t love Laurie Anderson? She creates brilliant experimental music and multi-media performances, but manages to remain intelligible to folks outside the avant-garde scene. One has to be completely lacking in pretension to perform a concert entirely for dogs (a project with her other half, Lou Reed), and somehow not come across as insufferable. I think it has something to do with her general humanity. She’s engaged with her audience, she has a sense of humor about herself, and her work has always been about observation and listening, as opposed to the narcissistic naval-gazing stereotypically (though not necessarily factually) ascribed to highly experimental artists.
In the video below, (an excerpt from her performance piece, “Empty Spaces”), Anderson tells a great story about a feminist demonstration early in her career. Like many young activists, she had perceived “the economic exploitation of women” as a fairly cut and dry issue, easily targeted and abolished. When a Playboy Bunny complicates her notion of exploitation, Anderson’s humility is piqued, and she’s forced to rethink what it means to work on behalf of women.