Interview with Laurie Anderson
Kalvos & Damian’s New Music Bazaar, Show #370, 6 July 2002. In Dartmouth NH, at the Hanover Inn. Listen to the interview from the original broadcast [0:31:09–2:01:07].
Laurie Anderson is one of today’s premier performance artists. Known primarily for her multimedia presentations she has cast herself in roles as varied as visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronics whiz, vocalist, and instrumentalist. She has toured the United States and internationally numerous times with shows ranging from simple spoken word performances to elaborate multimedia events. Recognized worldwide as a groundbreaking leader in the use of technology in the arts, Anderson collaborated with Interval Research Corporation, a research and development laboratory founded by Paul Allen and David Liddle, in the exploration of new creative tools, including the Talking Stick. Her awards include the 2001 Tenco Prize for Songwriting in San Remo, Italy and the 2001 Deutsche Schallplatten prize for Life On A String as well as grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
[Kalvos] Hi! Welcome! Before I knew who you were, and before I knew that you did a car horn symphony in Rochester, Vermont…
[Laurie Anderson] Do you know Rochester?
[K] Yeah, right across the mountain from Randolf, and I lived in Roxbury when I first moved to Vermont, but that was after I lived in Trenton, New Jersey and did a car horn symphony in 1978 in a parking garage. I repeated the car horn symphony in 1988 in Roxbury Vermont and it was only about that time that I learned that you had done yours; you had been the first of the car horn symphonies.
[LA] I bet there were car horn symphonies before mine in Rochester. I would have guessed… It’s like well, any traffic jam? You know, it just depends on what you call a symphony. I guess.
[Damian] How many cars did you have?
[LA] We had a combination of vehicles. We had cars, motorcycles, pick-up trucks, farm machinery… What were up there being artists in a commune; I was in a lot of communes around that time, various groups of people living together. People, who had, like me, got out of school and decided, I’m just going to dance down a road and never think of what I’m going to do next. Unlike these people here; here we are actually in Dartmouth and a lot of people — students that I’ve talked to so far — want to know about career choices.
[LA] Oooaahh… “What should I do?” And a lot of them would like to be brokers.
[K] Oh good. And you’re the person to ask.
[LA] About broking [sic], yeah, yeah. So, now, to each his own, you know, go ahead. There are a lot of openings in brokerage houses, I’m not going to tell people not to do that. So I’m not a good career counselor at all, because my own ideas… when I got out of school the only people who knew what they were going to do were the super-nerds. We despised these people who had a plan; they had a plan and they were going to go and execute it and we were saying “Gaw, that’s a lack of imagination. Why not just make it up as you go along?” and I have to say it’s worked for me. I have never decided what I would do. I still don’t know; I’m looking ahead to the next two years and asking, “What is it I do again?” I can’t even remember. What would I like to do? What would really be fun?
[D] And brokerage comes top of your mind almost every time?
[LA] Well, I wouldn’t mind checking that world out. That’s kind of a fascinating place, especially now. It’s a dream world of people who just… I don’t know; we saw one of the op-ed pieces in the Times today about how to get your business to look better than it is. Let’s say you’re selling ice cream — and it runs through the scenarios of Enron and World com, basically, if they were selling ice cream cones how would they do it, how would they make their business look more interesting? And one [idea] is: you’re selling cones, and so is the person down the street, and you just kind of make an agreement that you’re going to sell a hundred cones to them and they’ll sell a hundred cones to you each day. A lot of exchange going on between these two operations, oh, busy busy busy; and they put that on the books as an exchange. Do they actually exchange the cones? No. Why? Let’s keep it on paper. In a way…
[K] I couldn’t agree on the flavours!
[LA] Right, and then bring a hundred cones… Another is to get people to promise to eat an ice cream cone every day for the next 30 years and think of the income that you’d have from that and then decide that that’s your yearly income this year. And then you break it down like that… [Laughter] Being a broker might be some really kind of very interesting insanity. It also tends to involve things like greed and theft and other things that.
[D] Which is very prevalent in the art world anyway.
[LA] In the art world… uh…
[K] Full of greed and theft. We have more greed than I can imagine.
[LA] There’s a lot of greed everywhere. I think you’d be hard pressed to say which group of people has more greedy ambitions. And it’s hard not to when you live in a culture where you’re supposed to get more stuff all the time, and you’re supposed to pump yourself up until you’re big and famous and rich and that’s it? Is that what you want? Nobody even gets the chance to say “Would that be a good thing to do for me?” They just kind of swallow it and go “Yeah that’d be cool.”
[K] But you’ve been, as far as the art world goes, you’ve been remarkably successful. I mean, not only have you been able to do your work, I mean for that for those of us who are always in a struggle just to get to the point where we can do it. I mean your day job is your work, your art. That’s an astounding state to be in.
[LA] When I first started out, as with every young artist, nobody was asking me to do anything, and I didn’t want to wait around until somebody did, so I invented something. I wrote 500 letters to art centres all over Europe and said “I’m planning a European tour of my next work”. I had no European tour; I didn’t even have a next work. “If you are interested in joining, please let me know.” I got four letters back saying, “Yeah, we could do that.” So I packed up all my stuff in two black cases — slides and audio tapes and this and that and little clip-on lights — and I went to these little places in Europe and I did some shows, and met some people and did some more shows. I always tried to keep it as simple as I could, not to dream of the big system that was going to solve all my problems and I [think that] couldn’t do it until I got this really great new stuff. I always thought: I’m going to trying to work with something I can afford, something that’s reasonable. What could I make out of almost nothing? Now you see a lot of especially young artists who are doing theatre things in New York — there’s a real scene, and there’s no arts support in the United States anymore, so what do you do as a young artist? Well, what’s happened with them is really interesting: they don’t have anything except a chair and a microphone, but the writing becomes really good, and that’s really exciting. It’s like you know, the Czech Republic or something. You just don’t have anything so what do you do? Use your mind. Move out of it like that. You can go to any trade show and see a lot of dazzling things now. Corporations know how to do super high-tech art shows that feature speed, highly resolved images, incredible sound, things exploding, you know, spectacle.
[K] You did spectacle and you’ve minimized that spectacle somehow.
[LA] Yeah. I just did a big spectacle project in Switzerland.
[K] That was just recently. How did that go?
[LA] That actually worked, I’m pleased to report, because many of the pavilions at the Swiss Expo have signs on them that say “technical problems” and [that’s] the worst thing, you’re just down, it’s nothing. The Swiss Expo is four towns around a lake in western Switzerland. Picture Switzerland as a little kind of lumpy muffin, and the left hand side is a series of lakes near Geneva, and in these four towns — Biel and Yverdon and Murten and Neuchâtel — there are these Expo things. But it’s unlike any Expo that I’ve ever seen, because it’s not completely a corporate thing where Mercedes Benz does a Wow show, et cetera. It was started by a Swiss artist named Pipi Lotti Rist and she really worked to get very strange projects into it as well as the corporate “let me show you” kind of things. So for example, in our little area there’s a big cloud designed by an American architect, Diller and Scofidio, called Blur, and you walk on a little sidewalk out into the middle of the lake and there’s a big, wire-framed submarine. Huge! Enormous! With elevators and platforms and staircases and very tall, and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of jets of steam making a cloud. So it’s just this cloud floating out in the middle of the lake and at the top there’s a bar where you can go and drink all the waters of the world. And the cloud does move away, because it’s kind of windy, from the wire frame once in a while, blows away as clouds do, and goes off onto some of the other buildings, but it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Near that is our project, which is called Wer bin ich? which means “Who am I?”, and it’s a four-story cube with a lake inside and 70 beds and people come in and lie down and look up at the ceiling where there are lots of high-speed cameras that take your picture, and your image — your face — is suddenly 80 feet wide and floating in this kind of living painting on the ceiling. This project was not my idea, I was brought in as the fix-it person — the one that everybody hates, the one who goes “See this thing? You don’t need that. Over there? I wouldn’t do it that way. Take that out.” They’re going “Get out of here!” So, it does work, we tested it for six months. We worked on it for a year and a half and then built this thing, and I did the images and the music for it and got the motion-graphics people too. I brought a lot of Americans over, because it was a very challenging problem to get these images on the ceiling right away and floating around, and Americans seem to be very, very good at that kind of thing. So I brought an American team, and we also worked with some Swiss architects and designers, and in the end it was a kind of international project. But it was very beautiful.
It was hard to tell when your picture was going to be taken: the programme was about 14 minutes long and it’s very hard to pose for fourteen minutes. If you’d even try to pose for like 10 seconds — [pause] — you can’t, so [the camera] captures images of people who are watching, pictures of people watching, and it’s beautiful. It’s heart-breakingly beautiful, because people are just looking and they look so lovely. And everybody looks good. That’s the other thing, the lighting is good. It’s not like you’re going to be in there and you don’t even know your picture is going to be taken and suddenly it’s up there, and the lighting is terrible and you look awful. It’s not like that; you see the most beautiful picture of yourself, just enormous.
[K] Did the music develop out of that? Did you use that as source material?
[LA] Yeah. The music was something that I tried to design for a space like that, a huge space without real walls; it was a pavilion, so it has fabric walls. [We had] quite a complicated and nice sound system, so we were able to do a lot of things that moved around the space. We also had speakers in the little beds, that people would listen to, there were little questions about “who you are.” It was a kind of combination of music, and some kind of sort of sound effects things, and these questions. In the end, it was very satisfying to do it.
I was working on a lot of different kind of projects — some of them have a lot of tech in them, and some of them have almost none… mostly, I try to do things that are just appropriate for whatever it is, rather than trying to add things to glamorize it, or make it look more contemporary, or…
[K] You’re in a constant state of change in some respects. How did you for example work on the film music? You’ve done music for several films.
[LA] Always different. Right now I’m doing a score for a dancer, Stephen Petronio, and I’ve gotten interested in what language looks like with movement. That’s tough though, because every time you use words with a dancer, it always looks like they’re acting it out, no matter what the word is. And you kind of go “Oh, that looks terrible!” So this is a challenge for me to see: can I use some words so it doesn’t look like they are in some horrible little play, acting out the words.
[D] These words are not spoken by the dancers?
[LA] Right, the words are part of the score. So I’m trying a lot of different things: fracturing them, making them more abstract in certain ways, using them more as notes sometimes, trying to use the stumbling patterns of language, of spoken language — you know, the way you really talk, which is more like jazz than anything else, the way that language…
[K] You wanted to choose the words that people did know in order to represent that? You didn’t choose for example Klingon, conversation Klingon as an option.
[LA] Well, I haven’t really started it so maybe I will think about conversational Klingon. I like it when words have resonance. Spoken gobbledygook can be very beautiful, depending on the instrument: Ken Nordine could say anything and I’ll listen to it. He could do a Klingon speech and I’d probably find a lot of meaning in it, a whole range of things. Somebody else would do it and I would be out the door. It’s really hard to make generalizations because every single thing that gets made breaks new rules that you thought were [inviolable] and then there you are with lots of wonderful works of art that aren’t conforming to what you think should be made, or could be made. That’s the excitement of watching people make stuff, you go “Wow, I never thought of it that way. How fantastic!” So I think it’s really important to make sure that there’s room for everybody to feel completely free about what they make, that they don’t feel like they have to be working in some kind of certain style or that they have to fit into anything. Especially now it would be really great if peoples’ imaginations went wild. Because I have a feeling it’s kind of closing down instead, and that people are doing a little bit more of the expected, rather than going “What could I do if I could do anything, and you know what, I can do anything. Who’s stopping me?”
[K] You’ve been asked this question endless times but — you don’t even know what question’s coming — how do you feel about the resonance of O Superman twenty years later?
[LA] Well, I think many artists had that sensation about their work that they were doing at the time: it suddenly had a new meaning. I mean, menus had a new meaning, your list of people to call back had a new meaning, your conversation with your mother had a new meaning. Everything had a new meaning because you were catapulted into this new land where we were living in the present and were not able — as we usually do — to constantly be predicting the future, “Where is my next thing, how am I going to do that, we’ve got this deadline we na na na na d d d.” Suddenly it was: “You know what? Maybe Chicago is next, maybe London is next, maybe you won’t be here,” and all of those things that make you go “Ah, maybe I should try to make an effort to actually be in this moment, right now, because there isn’t an endless stream of them coming up”.
We listen to O Superman by Laurie Anderson, recorded live in New York on 18/19 September 2001. [0:50:45–0:59:28].
[K] A lot of stuff feels dated though in the case of a few pieces. Did it give you the chills that this work — instead of feeling like it was from another age and had expired — developed a new life?
[LA] Well, to me it was not so much that, as that we were in the same war. I wrote that during the Iran-Contra Affair which was one of the conflicts that is continuing now. The pressure that is felt by everyone when these two worlds that have been apart for the history of the world as we know it, begin to press on each other: the world of Darul Islam and the western technological world. And, because we have short memories, we keep being surprised like “What?” But what was the Gulf War? The same thing. What were all of the terrorist acts of the nineties? The same thing. What was the [World] Trade Center? Part of the same thing. This is not a war that has gone away, as much as we would like to pretend that it is. So I think it’s more amazing that people don’t connect those dots and think, “Do I see a pattern here? Let’s see…” I have always been interested in many of the same things. As much as you like to think “Oh, I’m changing. I’m evolving,” I’m writing about the same things that I always have, and those are things like loss, destruction and ways that we see time and angels. It’s not suddenly different. Of course, we live in a kind of hysterical culture that spotlights one thing and then another, then another, then another and none of it really means very much. Or to look at the news you’re really just, you’re looking at style. Or the level of naïveté sometimes really shocks me, people are still saying “Well, how could they hate us that much? They must hate us because we’re democratic and free and rich.” It’s on the level of high school — junior high school — mentality of the beautiful girl who goes “People hate me because I’m beautiful.” No, people hate you because you’re a jerk; you’ve done some really stupid, selfish things. That’s why they hate you, not because you’re beautiful. I’m very concerned about the level of dialogue. People have seemed to have been convinced by the security issues to just shut up about things, about our rights and think [resigned] “Well, you know,” for whatever reasons. And we do have a lot of reasons. This was a criminal act. I don’t know if it was an act of war because… well nobody does, although it’s called that — and then powers are invoked because we are supposedly at war… with who? So watching the fallout from the Trade Center and watching it play out has been pretty scary for me, that more people aren’t saying “Let’s look at what kind of ways that we can possibly change,” instead of just crushing with our… We’re now what’s known as a hyper-power. We’re the only ones. Doesn’t some sort of responsibility come with that, as opposed to just kind of crushing any bug that steps in your way? Are there people here who are going to have dialogue about it? You know, I just don’t hear the dialogue. I just don’t.
[D] If you hear it, it’s suppressed quickly.
[LA] Yeah. And on the grounds of “We’re at war and ‘you’re with us or against us’” and just the most simplistic stuff. We’re really smart, and I don’t know why more Americans aren’t really talking about this. Well, for one thing, the level of dialogue was quickly defined when Bush said a few things at the beginning. The first thing he said for Americans last fall was “pray”, the second was “shop”, basically, get the economy going. Those were the basic two and…
[K] Pray, shop and stay out of our way.
[LA] Stay out of our way is always a big thing. Don’t ask any questions. You’re not allowed to or you’re… [pause] It’s extremely disturbing.
[K] Were you in the city at the time, and even if you weren’t, did this paralyze your work for a while or did it make things explode in your work, did it bring out new ideas?
[LA] I went through a lot of different things, as many of us did. We were talking earlier about the motivation of greed in this and the exultation of it: you’re supposed to be greedy. Well, it’s too bad if you get caught, and then you will be so punished and your corporation will be quashed, but basically, go for it. Get everything for yourself. Be global, think global, get stuff! Market it. The more markets you have, the better you are.
I was getting a little depressed by that mentality and by the level of culture that was the result of something like that, which is that things that were individual and specific and quirky were disappearing and Britney Spears was everywhere. I mean, I think she’s fun, but everywhere? For everyone? I don’t know, it seems a little excessive. I was depressed by this development and then when that happened in New York I was so moved by people’s ability to forget themselves and help other people, and not to say “It’s me” but to say “Let me help you”, and they did. I assume that most people who live here are basically good-hearted. I do, I don’t think that people are by nature bad, greedy, selfish. I genuinely think people want to part of something bigger, and to help other people and to be helped by them, I think that’s a big dream of people. When you appeal to certain parts of patriotism, that’s what rings in people’s heads: “I want to be part of something bigger than myself.” But when Bush rings that bell, it’s simply different, it really is. “You’ll be part of what I want you to do, and we’re going to go and do this whether you like it or not, and you can pay us a lot of money for that. And meanwhile, we’ll let all these other guys off, who have just claimed to have spent, claimed to have just gotten billions of dollars in income through their ice cream cone business.”
We listen to Strange Angels by Laurie Anderson [1:09:41–1:14:33], followed by Monkey’s Paw by Laurie Anderson and Bobbie McFerrin [1:14:33–1:19:04].
[K] You’ve worked with a lot of amazing people. You’ve worked with a lot of famous regular pop artists and adventurous pop artists and interesting… Well, William Burroughs… How was that? I guess I was led to that because you were talking about words before.
[LA] Well, he’s the master of that.
[K] You were talking about all these other things, the words, the politics, all of that, and there you were with this incredible production.
[LA] I really miss him because he did have a completely different point of view, and it’s so amazing to have an old coot around like that who’s just not going with the programme in any way. It’s kind of surprising to people… this is very much like the fifties, much more than we’d like to think, I think. You know everybody busily mowing their lawns and getting their barbeque units together, except now it’s their PowerPoint presentations and it’s “busy busy,” and all kind of nice and organized for you and not too challenging, and this guy shows up and goes: [imitates Burroughs] “It’s Uncle Bill” and everyone goes “Holy cow it’s Uncle Bill, let’s pretend we’re not at home, ok? Let’s hide under the couch.” He comes in and he’s just saying things that they had never thought about before in their whole lives. I loved him because he was really funny. I had some problems with him; he loved guns and he didn’t like women. Two things that I didn’t have in common, but because he made me laugh and because he was so aggressively different, I didn’t really care. He was not one of these artists who was going to fade into the background and do these arty things. He was interested in control, and the mechanism of it and analyzing it and figuring out how, and he was very interested in talking about good and evil. When you look around your culture and you have these simplistic good and evil ideas around and you don’t have an Uncle Bill who’s saying “That’s horseshit, what you’re talking about. Good and evil? Let’s go back a step or two.” Americans are such individualists. I just hope that more step up to the plate and go “Oh yeah? Let’s look at it from another angle.”
I blame a lot of it on machines. I’m [involved] in a lot of network things where we’re doing petitions and signing things and because we’re at our desks sort of “working”, we think we’re doing something and we’re letting our congressman know through email. Well, you can imagine where that email goes; it isn’t even worth a stamp. It’s just dumped into the email trash bin the second it arrives. I just don’t think that’s so effective. But then again — call me a nostalgic — I really think that what works is just sweaty bodies showing up. It’s one of things that I like about doing live stuff. It’s easy to package your stuff and put it out in a nice digital package and ship it out. It looks good and there it is, and it’s much messier to pack it up in boxes and travel somewhere. But what I love about that is that you’re in a room with real people, and something happens there that does not happen when it’s filtered through equipment, through electronics. I really think that people do trust that stuff too much and don’t trust themselves enough and their own needs or gut feelings of what’s going on. It can be more easily manipulated when they’re not expected to do any more except forward an email that says their opinion of something; it’s a different thing to actually try to show up.
So it’s a unique opportunity now for artists and writers and thinkers and painters and musicians, for everyone… and I’m not saying get involved in this, because I think it’s quite dangerous when artists incorporate this kind of thing in their work directly, because then it’s very close to what’s called propaganda. You’re luring people in through your sounds, through your pictures; they’re defenseless. They are suddenly agreeing with you because you’ve got beauty on your side and you sneak into their minds and go, “A-ha this, so think that.” It’s a sneaky way to do it and also not a very effective way because propaganda has a much shorter life form than a great work of art, which of course absorbs all those ideas but doesn’t tell people what to think and do. I hate it when people tell me what to think and do. I think, “You don’t even know me. Why would you tell me what to think and do?” Nobody really has that right. but we all have the right to ask really good questions, to bring things into other shapes. How would a musician or a painter look at good and evil and maybe find some other aspects that be a little less flat than what we see in the papers? How can you add to that concept, or do something with it, or flesh it out, or make it weirder, or make it vivid? Artists make things vivid. Politicians use slogans like “good and evil,” so take those words and [see] what can you do with those. It’s not an obligation for artists; [with] all of these things I’m saying I’m talking to myself in a way. I’m an artist because [artists are] free. You don’t have to do anything. There are no rules; zero rules. You can do whatever you want as an artist.
We listen to Sharkey’s Night by Laurie Anderson with William S. Burroughs, from the 1984 album Mr. Heartbreak [1:27:13–1:29:47], followed by Sharkey’s Day by Laurie Anderson from the LP Mr. Heartbreak [1:30:58–1:38:44].
[K] Are you a reluctant technologist? You are, as an artist, very much associated with technology but I heard something earlier that suggested that maybe your confidence in technology is not all that high.
[LA] It never has been. I’ve used it a lot and people occasionally ask, “How do you feel now that technology has caught up with you?” and I think, was it a trade show that I was doing, saying “May I present this equipment: look at it, it’s fast, accurate, colourful, expensive and I’m using it for art. Ok, so come on in, you need some of this too.” That was horrifying to me because I am a control freak. I like to use stuff that I use for other purposes really. It’s not just to show off the machines. That said, many people can use technology now.
Much of the work that’s being made looks very much the same. Why? Because we’re all using Protools, Photoshop…
[K] Cookie cutter approach to art.
[LA] Yeah, and that’s good. The more stuff people make, the better. It is harder to change the tools when you have to take the computer apart. It’s harder than a musician fifteen years ago taking an amp apart and doing stuff to it. It’s moulded plastic — you try to open it up and it’s broken. And it’s not so easy for a lot of people to get into work on the software changes. I think it’s important now especially for artists — again I’m sort of talking to myself — to be suspicious and ask “What are you doing this for?” Also “Who are you talking to?” is another importance question for artists to ask, because it is very possible that the world’s greatest work of art could be done in a studio and noone would know except that artist. But also I think that art is very much about getting across to someone else so they say “I know what you’re talking about.” It makes the jump, it communicates. That is the part for me that’s very important, in my own personal rules: that it makes the jump to another pair of eyes or another mind and they go “Aha.” And it doesn’t have to jump to a lot of them either because I’m not the kind of artist who has the ambitions to bring my message to the world, partly because I’m a snob and I come from the art world where we thought that pop culture was the dumbest thing we’d ever encountered and we made a big effort to stay away from it. I then lost my credibility with the art world by signing a record contract with a major label.
[K] And the American Express ad?
[LA] Yeah, plenty of things like that. But then I was also at that point looking at it from a distribution angle: the artists who sell their work for a huge amount of money to rich collectors who put it in their living room and no one ever sees it. That’s fine — it’s not really about audience, but to me it was difficult to swallow those price tags that you had put on your work, and all these sculptors that I knew… There was an Italian count, Count Pansa, who would buy people’s work; he would buy their whole studio and then he’d set them up for life. He’d be in town and everyone would be on the phone: “Count Pansa’s across the street heading west. Go out and try to flag him down and bring him to your studio.” “Ok!” And [they would] run out and try to find this guy. How about another way? How about if you just sell more stuff for less? Say, what an American entrepreneurial idea. Gee, I guess no one had ever thought of that before.
[K] It’s interesting. Do you do internet distribution?
[K] And why is that? Because it seems to me that there is a wide distribution audience possible that way.
[LA] Again, I’m not so much interested in wide. I’m interested more and more in physicality. Right now, I’m more interested in going to actual physical places to see what happens, to do a project there or not.
[K] Does that account for the big gap between CD releases?
[LA] Partially, but I was also doing a lot of visual projects. I don’t really think of myself as a musician — or certainly not the kind of musician who puts out a CD every couple of years, or year or three years even. I would get the same question from an agent who would say “Well, you haven’t done a tour in the last two years.” Or “You haven’t done an exhibition for my gallery.” I’ve never felt like I’ve had to be on time; when I have something to say I’ll make a CD, otherwise I’m not on this schedule creating my catalogue of things. There are what seem to be odd lapses or silences, but … I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not really a professional.
[K] That’s a good sign actually.
[LA] Yeah. [Laughter]
[D] You’re a professional storyteller on the happiness presentation. You say all your stories are all based on fact and I wonder if there’s an apocryphal line you draw where your story becomes more fiction than fact.
[LA] Well, sure, and I try to make that quite clear. That opens up a very interesting question [about] the facts of your life [being] somewhat fictionalized. In other words, what do you dream about and how does that influence what you’re really doing? What you think you’re doing is often not what other people think you’re doing at all. Or talk to someone who you had dinner with last week and they’ll give you a completely different account of what happened. You think “Well then, what did happen?” As I was saying, we also live in this world of projection. I was talking a little bit about the way my grandmother would see the future. Is that apocalyptic end real? Well, it changed her life radically.
I also sometimes like to think about rumours and there was that story of the fire in California that was reported on the net, which is a rumour.
[D] With a skin diver?
[LA] Yeah. So there’s a lot of controversy about that and a whole bunch of people who discuss how that happened: if it did, where, if it didn’t. It’s somewhere in this realm of possibility. When it’s something like that, I try to say the word “rumour” near it. So I make some attempt to define that. I approached this really as a journalist to talk about the way things were. Not the way I wanted them to be or hoped they would be, because I’ve learned more from failure than I have from anything else, and from my expectations not actually being the reality, and they influence each other so much. What you think is going to happen and what actually did. It’s very coloured by what you thought it was going to be. And it often prevents you from seeing what it actually was, which is — actually in most cases, I’ve found — much more exciting, because it’s often weirder than you expected. If you really have built someone up to this big thing and then you meet them and it’s really different, and you think, “Let me really, really try to see at as it is and not with all the stuff I was bringing to it.” I’ve found that that part is very, very thrilling, because it resonates in [such] a way that you suddenly realise, “Wow, I’m actually meeting this person and not just living out my expectations of that. They’re sitting right here and there they are.” You kind of [wonder], “Who are you?”
[K] Just like you feel about us, clearly. Here we are at last.
[LA] Well those two stories are much more interesting than your own ideas, I think. I’ve found that, really often.
[K] Laurie Anderson, thanks so much for joining us on Kalvos and Damian.
We listen to Statue of Liberty by Laurie Anderson [1:51:06–1:55:30], followed by Twilight’s Last Gleamings by and read by William S. Burroughs [1:55:30–1:58:11], and Life on a String by Laurie Anderson [1:58:11–2:01:07].