Jan 25

Only an expert: Laurie Anderson wows as High Performance Rodeo’s Artist-in-Residence

by Barbara Bruederlin · 0 comments

What are we going to do now that Laurie has left town?  When the multi-media artist took over the artist-in-residence reins of High Performance Rodeo, she brought a dreamy thoughtfulness to the high spirited mid-winter arts festival.

One of the highlights of Laurie Anderson’s residency was her four-night stint at Theatre Junction Grand, performing a different version of her work in progress, Another Day in America, each night.

On the evening I attended, Anderson led us through ninety minutes of anecdotes that were simultaneously quirky, profound, and humourous.  On a darkened stage that was a veritable minefield of lighted candles, she spoke with words measured and chosen with the care of a poet, words at once personal and profound. She has a voice that commands - commands attention, commands belief, commands imagination, commands compassion.

In her bemused, measured voice, she told stories of visits to tent cities, where the inhabitants maintain a tenuous thread to their former lives through the last vestiges of politeness. She related Darwin’s thorny problem with peacocks, how to explain the existence of their tail display in the context of survival of the fittest. In a dreamlike monologue, she reflected on the recent signing of the American National Defense Authorization Act, which transforms American soil into a de facto battleground. These big questions were punctuated with haunting violin solos, allowing time for absorption and reflection.  The reflection itself eventually gave way to personal stories of home life, during which Anderson shed her poet-seer persona, lowered herself into an easy chair, and began to share tales (and video clips) of the life and death of her blind piano-playing rat terrier, Lolabelle.

It was another day in America.

For one splendid week, Laurie Anderson was the toast of the town - performing on stage, leading an interactive tour through the Cantos collection, cooking dinner with a select few at Cookbook Company Cooks, and opening her video installation, The Gray Rabbit at the Glenbow Museum, with an evening of conversation.

Luckily for us, The Gray Rabbit will be at the Glenbow Museum until April 9, to remind us of those few heady days when Laurie Anderson was a Calgarian.

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