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Arts & Culture

Artist exhibit poses grand question

By
Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, October 23, 2011

Laurie Anderson spoke with the kind of voice one uses with babies — and a nearly full Martinos Auditorium listened with an infant’s delight.

Anderson has found success as a spoken word poet, film composer, author and performance artist. She kicked off a weekend of Providence appearances organized by FirstWorks with a talk on Friday afternoon about her career, concerts for dogs and bigger themes of art and life.

A smattering of Brown and Rhode Island School of Design students filled the hall along with local residents, some taking notes between the bursts of laughter elicited by Anderson’s poignant wit.

Anderson’s multimedia piece, “Delusions,” was presented Saturday at The Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The show is comprised of 20 pieces built around the question, “What do you do when you don’t know what you’re doing anymore?” Anderson said.

Anderson told anecdotes spanning her career, most of them entertaining and endearing. While waiting to receive an honorary degree from RISD in 2008, she conceived of a concert solely for dogs after speaking with fellow recipient Yo-Yo Ma. Her plans came to fruition on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in 2010.

“As fellow creatures, they really appreciate a lot of the same things that we do,” Anderson said.

Describing her writing process for an opera based on “Moby Dick,” Anderson advised the audience to never again attempt to adapt a masterpiece. “This book does not need to be a multimedia show,” Anderson joked.

While describing several chapters of “Moby Dick,” Anderson floated in and out of character with such ease that it was hard to delineate where character and lecturer began and ended.

Anderson opened the floor to questions, comments and “ramblings” at the end of her lecture, with several audience members particularly interested in advice for aspiring artists.

“If you don’t like the design, you go back and look at it again,” Anderson said, describing her early trial and error attempts at sculpting. She offered insights about her artistic process and used photographs of her work to teach and to inspire. “The biggest question is, ‘What do you want?'” she said.

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