Vito Schnabel

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Posted by on January 30, 2005

Post Lunarism

Post Lunarism
Photo: Jon Gipe for The New York Times

Written by Deborah Solomon on January 30, 2005 for The New York Times

Deborah Solomon: Your new one-woman show, ''The End of the Moon,'' is based on your stint as an artist in residence at NASA. Why would a performance artist known for her iconoclasm want to visit mission control in Houston?

Laurie Anderson: As sad as I am about being in the United States these days, NASA is genuinely exciting. I keep thinking what it would be like to be a kid in this country. I think it would be really depressing, except for NASA.

Did you want to be an astronaut when you were growing up?

No. Although I could definitely imagine myself floating in space, I didn't want to become an astronaut. Driving those golf carts around on the moon seems a little geeky. Also, astronauts are constantly busy, and I didn't want to have that much to do.

Most other people see astronauts as figures of smoldering romance who rank right up there with cowboys and other American pioneers. Did you get to spend any time with astronauts?

I met many astronauts, and they seemed so out of place. They were given jobs around mission control, but they were living to be in space, and all their conversations were about the next time maybe they were going to go.

Since you don't identify with astronauts, what moved you to spend a year at NASA?

I like the scale of space. I like thinking about human beings and what worms we are. We are really worms and specks. I find a certain comfort in that.

You were NASA's first artist in residence and perhaps its last.

I think there is a lot of animosity between Congress and NASA right now. I heard that someone in Congress was looking through the budget, and the artist-in-residence program got scratched out.

How large was your government stipend?

Twenty thousand dollars.

Not huge. Perhaps we should lobby for an artist-in-residence program at the White House.

If I were a visiting artist at the White House, I wouldn't try to make a work of art. I would just want to watch. I would want to know what the White House gym is like.

Whom is your art intended for?

I think I do my work for some sadder version of myself, a woman who would be sitting in Row K. I am trying to make her laugh.

Although your show is headed for the hip Brooklyn Academy of Music next month, it relates to the fashion for one-person shows that are now flourishing on Broadway and overshadowing boisterous musicals.

I have never seen more than four minutes of a Broadway musical. I went to see ''Cats,'' and that is the closest I have ever come to a nervous breakdown.

What about the monologue, as currently practiced by Dame Edna or Billy Crystal?

Billy Crystal is doing a monologue about his personal life. I have never really been an artist who is interested in self-expression or autobiography.

Have you ever been psychoanalyzed?

No. I started a couple of times, but then I had to leave for the airport.

At 57, do you worry about aging and wrinkles?

Not really. I think some prunish people look pretty good. I am more worried about turning into a schlump than into a prune.

How would you define a schlump?

A schlump is someone who doesn't care about anything and who is just protecting their own turf, which is getting smaller and more meaningless, and then they disappear.

Do you find this to be a schlumpy era compared with the 80's, when you were part of a creatively inspired New York art scene?

I don't miss the 80's. I don't miss anything right now. I have zero time for nostalgia.