Posts Tagged ‘laurie anderson’

Media: PARTY IN THE BARDO with Laurie Anderson

August 30, 2020

I met Laurie Anderson in the fall of 1980, when I interviewed her for a cover story in the Soho News after I was blown away by Part 2 of her work-in-progress magnum opus United States, which she performed for a week at the Orpheum Theater on Second Avenue. When the entire cycle had its premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, I interviewed her again for the New York Times Magazine. Over the years, I would run into her and we would have meals and take walks together — in Paris, in Minneapolis, in San Francisco, and on the home front in New York City. It’s been a treat to build a friendship with someone whose wide-ranging work has thrilled me for decades — her albums, her shows, her films, her books, her collaborations. So it was a special honor when she invited me to be a guest on “Party in the Bardo,” the biweekly radio show she’s been producing during the pandemic for the Wesleyan University campus radio station WESU-FM. We spent two hours playing music, reading poems, and talking about life. The show premieres at 4am on a Friday morning, and it’s archived on the station’s website. You can also listen to it on Soundcloud. Check it out here and let me know what you think.

Culture Vulture: Under the Radar Festival and Duane Michals at the Morgan Library

January 20, 2020

Under the Radar, the annual festival of cutting-edge international work centered at the Public Theater, always opens the year with a bang. I feasted on three events in one day.

Aleshea Harris, one of the cadre of fierce amazingly original playwrights of color who’ve emerged in the last few years, created WHAT TO SEND UP WHEN IT GOES DOWN , which presents itself very specifically as a ritual first and foremost for black people to heal/address the situation of violence against black people in this country. “Please note that it is not often that Black people have a safe, public space for expressing their unfiltered feelings about anti-Blackness. We are taking that space today.” The playwright and the company she works with (Movement Theater Company) incorporate many elements of pagan ritual, African village ceremony, trauma therapy, and spiritual workshops to make every moment of the experience participatory, not sit-back-and-watch theater. Whitney White directed the uniformly strong performers: Alana Raquel Bowers, Rachel Christopher, Nemuna Ceesay, Ugo Chukwu, Kambi Gathesha, Denise Manning, Javon Q. Minter, and Beau Thom (above, photo by Ahron R. Foster).

I read the text when it was published in American Theatre last year, which blew me away, and the experience itself is super-powerful, from gathering in the lobby surrounded by photographs of black people killed by police to the very end of the show, which looks different for black and non-black audience members. I took very much to heart the statement Harris has an actor read at the end of the show to the non-black audience: “A good friend once told me that we each have a different job where challenging racism is concerned. She spoke to the ways she could use her privilege as a white woman to dismantle the white supremacist ideology that contributes to the deaths of so many people. As a Black woman and writer, I am uniquely positioned to create a piece of theatre focused on making space for Black people. This is one way I can contribute. This is my offering. I’d like to end this ritual by challenging you to consider what you are uniquely positioned to offer. As a non-Black person, what is a tangible way you can disrupt the idea responsible for all these lives needlessly taken? My hope is that you will consider this deeply. My further hope is that your consideration will turn to action.” I have some ideas. I want to percolate more. WHAT WE SEND UP had a short run Off-Broadway last year and will have another short run at Playwrights Horizons this summer.

I went from that intense reality directly to the moon – via TO THE MOON, a 15-minute virtual reality piece co-created by Hsin-Chien Huang and Laurie Anderson. Five people at a time sit on stools wearing a headset and holding joysticks for a trip through space. There were some beautiful images and speeches familiar from Anderson’s recent work, but the piece as a whole was so SCARY! I’m not a gamer and I’m amazingly prone to vertigo, so I stayed pretty low to the ground. When the video provided the opportunity to fly through space or climb a high steep mountain, I had to shut my eyes. It was so crazy: I knew I was sitting on a stool with a headset on and my feet on the floor but my palms were sweating and I was making involuntary fear sounds.

Then I got to see MUKHAGNI, created and performed by a young-ish gay male couple, one of them Bengali-American (Shayok Misha Chowdury), the other biracial/African-American (Kameron Neal). They do the entire 90-minute performance totally naked: cook food, stand with video projected onto their naked bodies, lie on the (stage-soil-covered) floor speaking into microphones dangling inches above their faces, talk about death and death rituals in various cultures and cremation and their respective families. (The title means “mouth fire,” which is how cremations along the Ganges begin.) They take a pile of birch trunks and build a kind of square seating area, then they rearrange the tree trunks into a kind of bonfire structure. Then the lights come up and they sit in folding chairs and talk to the audience about their relationship in a funny structure (“on our 15th date we did this…on our 312th date we did that…on our 186th date we decided to make this piece,” etc.) — a regular activity on “dates” was to visit cemeteries — then there’s a mourning ritual where Chowdury creates a garland of fresh flower blossoms while Neal shaves his head with a clipper. So amazing and sweet and strong and not exactly like anything I’ve seen before. But it’s the sort of thing I’ve watched my friend Keith Hennessy create over the years, elements of spiritual ceremony combined with pop-culture savvy non-linear performance art. I wish this show would have a longer run somewhere. You can see more pictures on their website: http://www.shayokmishachowdhury.com/mukhagni

A few days later I met my friend Liam Cunningham at the Morgan Library to walk through the beautiful exhibition “Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan.” I’ve long admired Michals’s work, distinctive for the interplay of image and language, poems and sentences and stories handwritten in the margins around his usually black-and-white, often enigmatic photographs.

The show is partly a retrospective but also an “artist’s choice” event, meaning that Michals got to root around in the Morgan’s archives to pull out art works that struck his fancy or that resonate with his own work.

Liam (who is a legendary photographer in his own right) took this beautiful picture of me in front of Sol LeWitt’s giant Wall Drawing 552D.

 

Quote of the day: FAILURE

March 4, 2018

FAILURE

When I first worked in recording studios with Brian Eno in the early 1990s I was unnerved by how much he liked failure. He seemed to look forward to it. Failure gave him the chance to rethink the whole project, to be flexible, to redefine it, to start over. During the long recording process I noticed that often by the time a song was finished it had little to do with the original version. Sometimes it’s painful to discard everything, sometimes it’s exhilarating. But I’ve finally learned that failure is largely a form of perception and definition, the way a dessert can be a complete failure as a cake but a great success when it’s renamed a pudding.

–Laurie Anderson, All the Things I Lost in the Flood

From the deep archives: William Burroughs, Laurie Anderson, and John Giorno

August 31, 2017

I love John Giorno, but not nearly as much as his husband Ugo Rondinone does. On the occasion of Giorno’s 80th birthday, Rondinone — a Swiss-born artist known for his multi-media installations — created I ♥︎ John Giorno, an ambitious nine-chapter citywide retrospective of his career as a poet, visual artist, and activist. The Swiss Institute showed Sleep, the famous five-hour Andy Warhol film of Giorno sleeping. (Warhol was only one of Giorno’s many famous-artist lovers, who also included Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.) White Columns mounted a tribute to Giorno Poetry Systems, the entity that created Dial-a-Poem in 1968 and went on to release a series of fantastic eclectic record albums that were mostly anthologies of tracks by cutting-edge musicians and spoken-word artists, with great titles (Smack My Crack, A Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse, Like a Girl I Want You to Keep Coming). Most of these shows and related events took place between late June and the middle of August. But the centerpiece of the exhibition is a display of the Giorno archives at Sky Art (555 11th Avenue), which will be open until Thanksgiving. Admission is free. You owe it to yourself to go check it out and watch the multi-channel video of Giorno performing his long brilliant poem “THANX 4 NOTHING.” Also pick up a free copy of the special edition of the monthly Brooklyn Rail devoted to the exhibition with great reminiscences by a multitude of artists and writers.

I first became aware of Giorno from hearing about his book Cancer in My Left Ball from my ex, Stephen Holden, who’d been an intimate associate of the downtown gay poets Allen Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara. I saw Giorno perform a few times — his dazzling, incantatory multi-tracking style brought performance art and rock ‘n’ roll energy to the tame format of poetry recital. His AIDS activism touched me deeply.

And he’s been an extremely articulate spokesman for Tibetan Buddhism. Two long interviews with Winston Leyland, published in Gay Sunshine Interviews Volume One and Queer Dharma: Voices of Gay Buddhists, made a big impression on me, especially the way he championed the integration of desire and mindfulness with zero sex shame, referring to “the great accomplishments of our Western sexuality: great bliss and clarity, fist fucking on LSD and crystal meth in the summer Olympics, going for the gold with full ignition, open and vast as the sky.”

I met Giorno in 1981, as a young journalist working for the Soho News, when I had the opportunity to interview him, William Burroughs, and Laurie Anderson, on the occasion of the 2-LP album they created called You’re The Guy I Want to Share My Money With. I spent a couple of hours with them at Giorno’s famous loft at 222 Bowery. I’ve done hundreds of interviews over the years, and this interview still stands out as the worst ever — it was awkward, strained, scattered. Partly the liability of trying to interview three disparate characters at the same time, but also Burroughs was very old, quite deaf, quite self-centered, cranky and impatient. Giorno was very kind and sweet. Laurie consoled me afterwards about how tough Burroughs was to be around sometimes. Now I look back at the transcript and it has a kind of hilarious quality — inane chitchat like something out of an absurdist play by Ionesco. For the record, I decided to post on my writing archive the complete unedited typewritten (pre-digital) transcript of the interview,  with all the cross-outs and typos. Check it out here and let me know what you think.

Renowned downtown photographer Marcia Resnick photographed the trio just before I interviewed them.

Culture Vulture/Photo diary: the Whitney with Bob and Phil, GO FORTH with Keith Hennessy, Laurie Anderson’s Midnight Moment

January 27, 2016

(click photos to enlarge)

1.2.16 Andy and I started the new year by having brunch with our friends Bob and Phil at Blenheim in the West Village then moseying over to the Whitney Museum. Bob and Phil had not experienced the new building before, so we walked through the Frank Stella show (eh), donations from the Thea and Ethan Wagner collection, and the Archibald Motley show before settling down to watch Rachel Rose’s mesmerizing 12-minute video “Everything and More.”

1-2 bob mower1-2 phil hayes1-2 alfonso ossorio number 140151-2 jacob lawrence depression detail0171-2 motley lawd my mans leavin detail0191-2 guys on the stairs

1.7.16 Keith Hennessy made his annual visit to New York to participate in the American Realness festival, performing a duet with Jassem Hindi (future friend/ships) and directing his former colleague and mentor Sara Shelton Mann in a valedictory performance called Sara the Smuggler. On his off night, we checked out a show in P.S. 122’s COIL Festival, Go Forth, the directorial debut of Kaneza Schaal, the extraordinary actress who performs with Elevator Repair Service and the Wooster Group. It was an ambitious, dramaturgically complicated piece based on Egyptian funerary texts that didn’t entirely land with me. But I very much admired the photographic installation (by Christopher Myers) that hung along the hallway leading to Westbeth’s intriguingly raw, crypt-like performance space. And who doesn’t enjoy having a free beer handed to you in the midst of a show?

1-7 go forth photo plus keith1-7 go forth negative confessions1-7 truth justice cosmic order1-8 harlem beer

1.12.16 After dinner at La Carafe on Ninth Avenue, Andy and I and David Zinn swung by Times Square to sip hot cider and witness Laurie Anderson’s Midnight Moment. For the month of January, 54 of the 10 zillion LED screens in the heart of the theater district flashed three minutes of Laurie’s film Heart of a Dog at 11:57, thanks to Sherry Ridion Dobbin and Times Square Arts.

1-12 dz and aew1-12 laurie in tsq1-12 midnight moment

 

%d bloggers like this: