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Laurie Anderson

Artist in Profile (Mar ’15): Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson

In 1947 Laurie Anderson was born in Chicago. She was one of a family of eight children, and during her youth she studied and played violin and was a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony. She grew up with three sisters and four brothers in an affluent Chicago suburb. Although she played in the Chicago Youth Symphony, she abandoned the idea of becoming a violinist. She adored books and began a degree in Library Science. Finally, her love of art drew her to Art History. Moving to New York after graduation to study sculpture at Columbia University. She made her early living from lecturing as an art history teacher and also as a critic for minor art magazines.

During the early 1970s, the art scene was fostering an experimental approach amid many young artists in New York which attracted Anderson. In fact many of her earliest performances happened in more informal art spaces and on the street. She started to create and present her debut performances including “Automotive” an open space concert of car horns and “ORange” when ten performers used megaphones to shout out stories in an empty sports stadium.

One of Anderson’s more memorable early performances comprised of her standing on a block of ice wearing ice skates playing the violin. When the ice melted, the performance ended. Since the early days, Anderson has continued on to create theatrical works on a large-scale combining video, music, storytelling, sculpture and image projection in which she is the performer.

Her work has been shown in Europe and at the Guggenheim. As a musician she has released seven music albums including “Big Science” from which the single “O Superman” climbed to number 2 in the British music charts.

Anderson is one of America’s most daring, creative and renown pioneers. Primarily known for multimedia presentations, she takes on many other aspects of performer as poet, film maker, electronics wizard, instrumentalist, photographer and vocalist. She has toured in America and internationally frequently with diverse shows from spoken word events to multimedia spectacular. Her major works are “Songs and Stories for Moby Dick”, “Empty Places” and “The Nerve Bible”.

Laurie Anderson achieved incredible popularity worldwide with her multimedia trademark performance art. Contributing to her long term popularity is the ability to re-invent herself as an artist as well as her efforts to make her art understood wherever she performs by using several languages in her shows. One of Anderson’s hallmarks is her solos with musical instruments of her own design that feature state-of-the-art electronics. She makes use of Vocoders for voice transformation. Rather than just songs, live performances typically have spoken stories with music, lights, sound, costume along with film or still images.

As well as being an accomplished artist and musician, Anderson has written and published six books. She has also written the Entry for New York in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Anderson as a composer has contributed to the world of film and scored music to films by Jonathon Demme and Wim Wenders. She also contributed to the score of Robert LePage’s theatre piece, “Far Side of the Moon”. She is globally recognised as a pioneer for the use of technology in art; Anderson collaborated with many diverse bodies including the Interval Research Corporation, an R&D laboratory to explore new tools for creative purposes and invented new voice filters, a tape bow violin and a talking stick that replicates sounds. She used these to great effect in her performances.

2002 saw Anderson receive the appointment as the first artist-in-residence of NASA. This experience culminated with a solo tour “The End of the Moon”.

Anderson met Lou Reed in 1992 and they became a couple marrying in 2008. The marriage lasted until Lou Reed’s death in 2013.

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