Salem Welcomes Celebrated Performance Artist Laurie Anderson

Salem Welcomes Celebrated Performance Artist Laurie Anderson

March 26, 2013
Laurie Anderson

When Laurie Anderson presents “Dirtday!” on April 4 in Hanes Auditorium, she’ll use her stories and music to create what she has described as “a dream world of aspirations and regrets.”

One aim of the solo work, Anderson said recently, is to cast a journalist’s eye on all sorts of subjects, including politics, theories of evolution, families, history and animals. The truth—or at least Anderson’s version of it—should emerge, challenging notions that the future will get better.

Faith in improvement “sometimes gets in our way of seeing things as they are,” Anderson says. “To me, that’s the beauty of journalism. It’s not about things as they could be or they should be, but as they are. It’s great to tell the truth—which is pretty messy, usually.” 

“Dirtday!”—the title of which emerged from Anderson’s informal name for Earth—is the third in a trilogy of storytelling works that she has created and performed on tour recently. (The other works in the trilogy are titled “Happiness” and “End of the Moon.”)

In “Dirtday!” Anderson tells multiple stories in short sections, in addition to playing keyboards and electronic string music. Reflections on everything from Darwin and peacocks to a tale of visiting a tent city for the homeless give the show comedic highs tempered with compelling social commentary. Anderson’s creations are often works-in-progress, so “Dirtday!” may well have undergone some tweaking by the time it arrives in Winston-Salem. 

“I hope people approach (‘Dirtday!’) as a kind of long-word adventure,” Anderson says. “It’s almost like swimming in words. I hope people have a really, really good time doing that. I’m here not to be difficult or unusual or original. I’m here to have a really, really, really good time.”

Anderson, when asked to describe how her art has evolved over the course of the entire trilogy, says she’s become “a lot better at mixing stories with sounds (and) finding sounds to support and punctuate the stories.” In some instances, the music steps forward and sometimes it’s more like the soundtrack of a film.  

Music and words are the media that Anderson, a self-described multimedia artist, has chosen for “Dirtday!” Her biography indicates that she’s cast herself in many other roles, including that of visual artist, poet, photographer and filmmaker. She has written several books, composed music for films and had her visual art exhibited in museums. Her “Collected Stories: Books by Laurie Anderson,” will be on exhibit at Salem College throughout the month of April.

Anderson says that curiosity accounts for her interest in so many different media.

“I also don’t feel strange jumping across what to other people seem like boundaries,” she said. “They don’t seem like boundaries to me.” 

Anderson says that her next project is a film for French television. The film will entail images without words. It was initially conceived as a way of communicating Anderson’s philosophy of life. 

“I don’t I have a philosophy of life,” she said. “Even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t try to foist it off on you.”  --By Ken Keuffel



The June Porter Johnson Series for the Visual and Performing Arts Presents:
Laurie Anderson, “Dirtday!” performance
Thursday, April 4, 7:30 p.m.
Hanes Auditorium, Elberson Fine Arts Center
Free Admission, Reservations Not Required

“Collected Stories: Books by Laurie Anderson,” exhibition
April 1-28
The Galleries at Elberson Fine Arts Center
Free Admission
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-5 p.m.