Musical, narrative and mystical beauty shapes the language in which Laurie Anderson tells stories about the human being. Since the 1980s, she has been staging live shows that are surprising in their analytical power and in their poetry. One of her abilities is to bring together mystery, criticism and humor in one and the same artwork. A person who is at one and the same time happy, sharp and committed is possible.
Internationally renowned for creating and manipulating sophisticated multimedia, in THE END OF THE MOON (2004) Anderson distributed small candles on the floor, turning the stage into a flickering underpinning from which to speak to us. That meaning could only be transmitted by those small candles. Cutting-edge technology couldn’t offer that.
In the same way, any computer is able to solve thousands of things we would be unable to solve on our own. Even so, the computer is unable to understand us. It’s a machine. And it isn’t physically homologous to us. It isn’t made of the material of the earth. Much less of fire.
Matter as something pregnant and in transit is very present in BOAT, the exhibition by Laurie Anderson that Vito Schnabel currently presents in New York in what used to be a warehouse in southern Manhattan. Charcoal, pencil, ink, clay, cinders, paper, emphasize the importance of the physical. What are Laurie’s movements and gestures in a live show this time generate enormous paintings. They are embodied.
BOAT is about the body: the body dissolving, the body leaving traces, the body on a minimal scale, the drawing and erasing of the body. She might have called this exhibition BODY instead of BOAT, save, Laurie Anderson says, that such a title wouldn’t have suggested the way in which we move in order to navigate through a vast space that is in constant change.
In BOAT, the series of paintings LOLABELLE IN THE BARDO (2011) is based on “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.” Bardo is the 49-day period between death and reincarnation. It’s when the spirit experiences the transition from the mind that ceases to be, and is left, in the end, alone. Lolabelle, the little terrier bitch that accompanied Laurie for twelve years, died in April 2011 and was delivered to the timespan of the Bardo. Vicissitudes of love, death, dreams and illusion in these enormous, theatrical paintings. A complex, unpredictable, hallucinating traffic of simultaneous events. The outsize panels render tangible that moment we may traverse some day. They set up a distance between it and the status of entelechy. They bring it closer to the body.
From the darkness at the end of the warehouse, a minimal luminescence is glimpsed behind a curtain of crouching people. It’s the video-installation FROM THE AIR (2011). In the far corner of the room, on the floor, two six-inch-high, white-clay armchairs are set up on the floor. On one of them sits Laurie. On them falls a projection of similar shape and size. A simple way of solving a 3D effect. Laurie speaks, looking at us steadily in the eye, as Lolabelle climbs on, climbs off the other armchair. She appears and disappears from the projection.
FROM THE AIR tells about the change in perception about the direction up, about the air, experienced by the citizens of Manhattan since September 11, 2011. The sky, a symbol of free expansion, became a vast portal for attack. Private and intimate spaces now feel open to being laid waste.
The cornered FROM THE AIR is so short one has to move in closer to see and hear it. Much taller than it, we bend over it. Diving down.
Originally published in Spanish