"The End of the Moon" is the second in a trilogy of new solo performance works by Laurie Anderson that combine stories, songs and music in an intimate and low-tech setting. "Moon" follows "Happiness" and looks at the relationships between war, aesthetics, spirituality and consumerism. She envisions the entire trilogy as an "epic poem" which aims to paint a large picture of contemporary American culture.
Anderson was online Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about "The End of the Moon," her North American tour and her other projects.
Anderson appears at Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University on Thursday at 8 p.m.
A transcript follows
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You're at Lisner Auditorium tomorrow night to present The End of the Moon. What will this, being Part Two, of your trilogy, be about?
Laurie Anderson: This is a series of stories about all sorts of things. Nominally it's my official report as the first NASA artist-in-residence, but the stories include things about war, my dog, trees, people I've known, theories.
I never knew NASA, of all places, had artists in residence. What did you do for them? Has your work been sent into space?
Laurie Anderson: Unfortunately it's not up there. It's not sailing around in some urn.
Tomorrow night is an account of what I decided to do and where I went and what I saw at various space centers. Hubble, Ames, JPL in Houston.
At first glance, it seems odd that NASA would have an art
The founding director of the NASA Art Program, James
Dean, said, "At the core, both art and aerospace
exploration search for a meaning to life."
Could you elaborate on your role as the NASA artist-in-
residence? Has space exploration affected your search for
meaning to life? If so, how?
Laurie Anderson: Yes, it did affect it, in fact, fundamentally. It made me question my criteria for the work I do. It made me wonder what I'm looking for, especially when I heard things like the fact that Einstein rejected some of his own theories because they were ugly. So what was he looking for? Scientists have many of the same issues when they look for hidden things as artists do.
What did you do for the Olympics? Did I hear any of your work on TV?
Laurie Anderson: I was asked to be on the Opening Ceremony committee, so off and on for two years I went to Athens to work with this group of artists and designers. They were the smartest people I'd ever met. I love English because it's so huge and flexible but Greek is so sharp. I no longer wonder how western civilization could have been invented there.
I came in as a multimedia consultant but I was, in fact, the consultant from hell because I kept telling them things like, "Get rid of that big effect. Lose that crane" and so on. Every fashion company, every car company, does multimedia shows, why don't you people emblazon "Know Thyself" across the field. You invented that was well as tragedy, philosophy, sculpture, physics and so on. Don't just do another multimedia show.
How old are you? Where do you live these days? Who are three of your favorite musicians?
Laurie Anderson: I'm 57. I live in New York City downtown and three of my favorite musicians as Tom Waits, Brian Eno and Arvo Paart.
You're with Nonesuch Records. That label seems to have a roster of somewhat older artists known for their particular style of music. It's eclectic, for lack of a better word. Are you happy there? Is it a good company?
Laurie Anderson: It is a good company. I'm not someone who makes a record every couple of years and they're cool with that. I have so many projects and making records is one of them but they are totally sympathetic to that.
What software do you use? Are you real into technology? Are you a techie? Do you have an iPod?
Laurie Anderson: I'm a techie. I run this show on my laptock using Max and a big array of soft synths. Physically it's the smallest show I've done -- or let's say it has the smallest footprint -- but technologically, by far, it's the most complicated. I'm thrilled that technology has gotten so small and portable.
I use the iPod in the show.
Do your audio works represent your feelings or do you speak for other people through your work?
Laurie Anderson: When I was in junior high school I was running for president of student council. JFK was running for president in the primaries at the time. I wrote to him and asked for his advice. He wrote me a long letter about how to get elected. The principal point was find out what the students want and promise it. I did and I won. And I wrote him a letter thanking him and wishing him luck. I was a dweeb. He sent me a dozen red roses and a telegram which bought him the vote of every woman in Glen Ellyn, Ill. That was the last time I tried to represent anyone else.
As an artist, I just have to guess that other people might respond to other things the way I do.
If I were to invite you to a dinner party, what would you like me to serve you?
Laurie Anderson: Yesterday in Richmond one of the theater managers told me her menu for a party she's having and I made her write it down because it sounds so delicious.
Beef tenderloin on lettuce
Steamed shrimp with horseradish
Parker House rolls
Fruit Bars for dessert
What do you think of the election campaign, the candidates? Who do you want to win? Who do you think will win?
Laurie Anderson: I'm fascinated because politics is about telling stories and that's my work. Not many of us can afford the researchers it would take to learn the back story or to get all the facts. We depend on the ability of these storytellers. I love watching their styles and trying to figure out what angles they're using to tell the stores. Are they appealing to hope, to fear, to another bland happy ending?
I plan to vote for Kerry and I'm unable to predict a winner.
Front Royal, Va.:
Arvo Paart! Yes! I can hear it in your work.
Laurie Anderson: You've got ears.
Hi Laurie. It's very cool you're here and thanks for being online with us.
I hope you'll take a moment to share how you describe or frame or try to make sense of what is happening to/in our country currently. Particularly since 9/11.
Basically, I just want to know how you see it ... how you make sense of it or don't ... what you have been feeling.
Laurie Anderson: Huge question. Much of what I can say about that is in The End of the Mooon entwined in all the stories because even if it's not specifically about that, it's a big issue.
It's a strange thing to be waiting for another disaster but I think that's somewhere in the back of peoples' minds. An eery countdown. For me the biggest issue at the moment is freedom and that means not just personal freedom and artistic freedom but freedom from fear-mongering. Fear and control are cousins.
New York, N.Y.:
How did your mother like "O Superman?"
Laurie Anderson: She thanked me for writing it and didn't take it personally.
How's married life? You and Lou Reed are like a god and goddess --not necessarily in that order.
Laurie Anderson: Yeah, life in the clouds is chillin'. Technically we're not married but who's counting.
New York, N.Y.:
Are dangerous times (like these) better or worse for art?
Laurie Anderson: Yesterday I tried to go see a durer show in Richmond but they said because times are hard in culture these days museums are closed for three days instead of two.
No matter what the atomosphere, it's difficult to make good work. In dangerous times like these sometimes it feels like the stakes are higher but, in fact, they're not. Life and art are always really urgent.
You mentioned "Know Thyself," one of the tenets of the Apollonian cult at Delphi. Did you visit Delphi while you were in Greece? If so, what did you think of it and will you make any musical statements about it?
Laurie Anderson: I walked to Delphi along the Sacred Way from Athens and I'd wanted to walk on one of the most ancient roads. I got there off-season when typically the oracle had left for the winter. The idea during that part of the year was to go and dance in the caves these erotic Pan dances but no one was in the caves either. The walk itself was spectacular. I got to see places like the crossroads where Oedipus killed his father.
Laurie Anderson: Thank you for joing the online chat.