Posts Tagged ‘laurie anderson’

Quote of the day: FAILURE

March 4, 2018


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.”

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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?

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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.

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In last week’s New Yorker

October 22, 2015

recognition nyorker coverI haven’t done this in a while, and I’m still working my way through this week’s, but last week’s issue of the New Yorker was unusually stuffed with exceptional pieces worth catching up on:

  • “Thresholds of Violence,” Malcolm Gladwell’s riveting and disheartening report about how many school shootings specifically intend to replicate the massacre at Columbine. The piece leads and ends with a hair-raising account of a rampage that was aborted and concludes: “The problem is not that there is an endless supply of deeply disturbed young men who are willing to contemplate horrific acts. It’s worse. It’s that young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts.”
  • “Road Warrior,” Jane Kramer’s in-depth up-close-and-personal profile of Gloria Steinem, which increased my already high regard for the feminist icon exponentially.
  • “Drawing Blood,” in which reporter Adam Shatz introduced me to French-Arab cartoonist Riad Sattouf, whose book The Arab of the Future I can’t wait to read.
  • “Cold Little Bird,” Ben Marcus’s short story about a father struggling to adjust to the reality of his ten-year-old’s son personality change.
  • critical essays by Alex Ross and Hilton Als on two artists near and dear to my heart, Laurie Anderson and Sam Shepard (Hilton was kind enough to reference my Shepard biography in his review of the Broadway production of Fool for Love).

    Not to mention Adrian Tomine’s cover image (above), which will induce groans of recognition from many writers who live in NYC.

Culture Vulture: Laurie Anderson’s HABEAS CORPUS at Park Avenue Armory and John Singer Sargent at the Met Museum

October 6, 2015

(click photos to enlarge)

10.3.15 — The size and scale of the Park Avenue Armory makes it unlike any other venue in New York City, and artistic director Alex Poots has mounted one fascinating unconventional production after another there. He commissioned Laurie Anderson to make a piece this season, and the result – Habeas Corpus, which ran October 2-4 – was unlike anything Anderson’s ever done before. There was a performance each evening, at which she told stories and sang songs and introduced guest musicians Merrill Garbus (aka tUnEyArDs), Stewart Hurwood (Lou Reed’s tech guy, who marshals a fleet of guitars feeding back through amps), and Syrian pop singer Omar Souleyman.

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But the performance was a minor part of the event. The centerpiece of Habeas Corpus was Anderson’s collaboration with Mohammed El Gharani, a 28-year-old Chadian who was kidnapped from a mosque in Pakistan after 9/11, tortured and interrogated, then flown to Guantanamo where he remained captive for six years until he was finally freed and sent back to Africa. Anderson has been working for many years on multimedia art works about prisons and prisoners, specifically the idea of broadcasting live video of incarcerated prisoners  onto oversized plaster casts of their bodies in museum settings. She hasn’t managed to do this in the United States for political reasons, but through the human rights organization Reprieve she made contact with Mohammed el Gharani and devised this remarkable art installation.

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In the vast Drill Hall of the Armory stands a huge white chair statue (almost the size of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and constructed by some of the same artisans who worked with Kara Walker on her giant sculpture A Subtlety at the Domino Sugar Factory last year), onto which is projected live video of el Gharani sitting in a studio in West Africa. He sits silently, although when he takes breaks, prerecorded video is shown of him telling stories about his experiences in Guantanamo.

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Anderson has activated the space through lighting (the room is completely dark, lit only by the artwork and a giant disco ball slowly revolving) and sound (an eerie immersive sound piece by her late husband Lou Reed sends droning guitar feedback throughout the space, mixed together with a soundscape of surveillance audio, and a handful of musicians wander through serenading audience members with violin and cello improvisations).

It’s a spectacular and haunting meditation on solitary confinement, literal and figurative. In a smaller room at the Armory interviews of el Gharani talking about his experience played all day. As usual, the Armory created a large-format elaborate program with extensive notes on the piece, and Anderson wrote a long essay about making it that was published on The New Yorker’s website. I encourage you to check them out. Habeas Corpus is an eloquent and maddening argument for holding President Obama to his promise to shut down Guantanamo and repatriate detainees who’ve never been charged with any crimes.

10.4.15 – Word of mouth insisted that the show of John Singer Sargent’s portraits of artists and friends at the Metropolitan Museum was a must-see, but I dilly-dallied about checking it out until the very last day. So glad I didn’t miss it! I don’t have a huge file on Sargent, but this show was a powerhouse introduction that included some of his most famous works, including Madame X, a full-length portrait of a beautiful American expatriate socialite named Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau in a low-cut gown with bare shoulders that so scandalized Paris when it appeared that Sargent had to move to London afterwards. The exhibition also showcases the painter’s many portraits of now-famous artists, many of whom were his close friends, including Henry James (like Sargent a discreet homosexual).

I was intrigued by this gender-queer writer of whom I’d never heard before:

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I also loved that Sargent got to see a gamelan performance, which inspired this painting of a Javanese dancer:

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His portrait of Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth is justly considered one of his masterpieces, thrilling to see in person:

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I love his drawing of the young handsome William Butler Years and also his fascinating, strangely off-centered cartoon-like portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson and his exotically dressed wife:

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Speaking of queer, Sargent did quite a lot of homoerotic artwork, much of which the Met Museum owns, but very little of it showed up in this show, an exception being this watercolor:

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Sargent was very handsome himself (he and many of his distinguished artist friends would fit right in with the bearded gentlemen of Williamsburg/Brooklyn these days), as you can see in this, my favorite of his three self-portraits:

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