Laurie Anderson is not only one of today’s most important artists, she’s also one of the busiest. Besides performing her solo work for audiences around the world, she’s worked on the World Expo 2005 in Japan, written a score for an opera, helped create the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in Athens and became the first artist in residence for NASA. Anderson will perform her new solo work, The End of the Moon, Tues., March 8, at 8 p.m. at the Nightingale Concert Hall at the University of Nevada, Reno.
One of things implied by the title of your new work, The End of the Moon, is a sense of loss. A sense of losing something that is central to our lives. What do you feel we’ve lost?
One of the subplots of this work is, what is it like to be in this country these days? I’ve found it difficult. In one section, I talk about how I’ve lost something and just can’t put my finger on what it is. But then I realized that what I lost was my country. I would never put those words in my show. I would never be that simplistic because that’s not really what I feel, either. Everybody’s sense of patriotism and feeling about where they live is really complicated because you love it, but you think, “This is in ruins.” It’s a funny kind of balance.
The series you did for French radio ties in with this a bit.
When they asked me to do the series, I decided to do it about walking and freedom. And partly it was because of some of the things George Bush had been talking about. Things like the founding fathers were men of God and country. And I was thinking, “No, they weren’t! How did that suddenly get into the land of truth?”
You’ve said that this show is more elusive than previous ones.
I’m going for elusive. I’m trying to catch things before they become stories, so that you can really see them for the first time. In a way, that was one of the things I learned a lot about at NASA—preconceptions. The best example is Einstein, who rejected some of his theories because they weren’t beautiful. And you think, “What was he looking for? A bunch of really symmetrical things in the sky? That’s going to make it true?” Cause when you look at the Japanese aesthetic, they see symmetry as completely simple minded.
A constant theme that runs through your work is time. How has your perception of time changed over the years?
I don’t see it as an endless thing anymore. There just aren’t these endless acres of time to keep doing this and that. So that makes me not want to waste other people’s time, or my own. So I really do try to get to the heart of things, if I can. I don’t know if I can, but I try to.
You once posed the question to John Cage, “Are things getting better, or are things getting worse?” How would you answer that?
This is really a difficult question because it’s based on zero besides your general feeling of optimism or pessimism. But I find it a much better thing to be an optimist. I think that helps all of us even if things are in a bad way. I think feeling positive is incredibly important. That’s one of the reasons I’m an artist, to try and make beautiful things.