I just came back from the opening night of Laurie Anderson’s latest performance piece (entitled “Homeland”) at the Rose Theatre in Columbus Circle. I have to admit that I was prepared to hate it but ended up at the end of show walking out with a smile on my face feeling as if I was hypnotized by a mystical figure that read my deepest thoughts.
When Laurie Anderson explained to Artforum how her latest performance piece came about it sounded rather pretentious to me:
The Japanese translator was asking me, “What did you lose?” And I said, “No, it’s about the feeling of losing things, not the thing itself.” And she asked, “Well, when did you lose it?” And I thought, “Ah, now I’m being psychoanalyzed by the translator. How great.” But I really did try to think about when this happened, and I realized it was when we were invading Iraq, and that what I’d lost was my country. That was the moment I discovered I’d really like to write about this sensation. How does your sense of place affect who you are?
In reality, the show was minimal and decorated in a type of loft chic (candles on the stage and simple bulbs hanging from long chord). With one song after another, she wove a blanket of words that felt comfortable (and comforting). She did, as the Artforum passage suggests, address sensations and their impact on ourselves and those around us.
I remember that a few songs into the performance I felt a calm blanket the room. The sparse simple show (no distractions) allowed me to absorb her words, music and set (the lights did change periodically from one solid color to another) while my mind seemed to release all its tension.
One of her finest songs was “Only an Expert,” which focused on our culture’s obsession with specialization. Expert-culture, Anderson knows, is the antithesis of the artistic sensibility, which is more concerned with the universalization of experience.
It was as if Anderson had decided that the only way to transform the culture of fear that has gripped this country for the last seven years was by creating a communal space that represented the exact opposite–a place where loving energy pulsed from songs that were never very serious or self-conscious. Laugh off the last seven years she seems to be saying…or maybe dismiss them, because we’re never going to make sense of them anyway. I tend to agree.
Btw, there was a special stage appearance by Lou Reed which made the night just that little bit more special.
“Homeland” continues this week for four more performances. For tickets info visit here.