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Laurie Anderson: Delusion

“It’s easier for people to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism,” says Laurie Anderson, summarizing the thesis of a book she’s just finished reading. Her exasperation comes in part from this political realization, and in part from the number of tasks she’s attempting to juggle this day at her New York studio. She puts down the phone to make sure one of her invented musical instruments is shipped properly to an upcoming opening in Sao Paulo, Brazil, before returning to a thread concerning Jung, Billy Corgan, her hatred of rectangles, and how Delusion, her newest performance piece, is considerably less political than Homeland, the avant-pop album she just released this summer.

“Politics gets into my work no matter what,” the 63-year-old multimedia artist says, “but there’s not too much politics in my dreams.”

The subject matter for Delusion, a multimedia theater piece originally commissioned for the Vancouver Olympics and developed in part during four EMPAC residencies Anderson partook this past year, was pulled from the performer’s dreams. “I didn’t want to make something that resolves,” she says, “because our lives are complicated. They don’t resolve that easily. I wanted to make something where there are two sides and they’re both really true and vivid and absolutely the opposite of one another. [Delusion] is really trying to represent different ways the mind works—I know that sounds super pompous.”

The piece is a medley of 20 “mystery plays” told through text, music, video, monologue and electronic puppetry. “It slides around between a lot of topics,” she says. “Stories about things. Lots and lots of things. I tried to write them as plays at first, and that didn’t really work somehow, so imagery and music kind of slipped in. Then I went back to the plays and redid them different ways to make them about—again, to be really pompous—time and love.”

Anderson used her EMPAC residencies to develop the piece’s set design, a “visual accordion” of unconventional projection screens and microphones through which she performs a variety of voice-filtered characters. And, of course, she’ll play her trademark electric violin. She’s been touring with the show for the better part of the year but says she’s fascinated by how different venues and different audiences cause the piece to change night-to-night. “I work in an art form in which you’re going to see [the piece] once,” she says. “It’s not going to hang in a museum where you can come back and think about it. It’s got to work right then or it’s never going to work, so you have to think on your feet about these things and go with it and make it an experience that happens right then.” To accomplish this, she tries to jar her audience with sudden jump cuts between mundane and mythic subject matter, reworking sections in-the-moment according to audience response. “I try to make it a much freer experience for myself and other people, so they don’t have to define things and decide things all the time. They can just float more. That’s what I try to do more than anything else.”

In a way, “genre” itself is one of the many delusions Anderson’s piece looks to explore. “Any time you create a system,” she says, “on many levels it is delusional.” Politics and religion are only the bluntest examples. As much as she revels in the poetic use of language, she’s found at the heart of the piece a “fear that this world is made entirely of words.”

“When you look at something, you can describe it in a million different ways,” she says of how arbitrary and limiting a single expression can be. But this linguistic problem is the multimedia artist’s call to action.

Laurie Anderson will perform Delusion on Friday (Oct. 15) and Saturday (Oct. 16) at 8 PM in the theater at EMPAC (110 8th St., Troy). Tickets are $15. For more info, call 276-3921.

—Josh Potter


Bad Religion

These punk geezers are as old as Metroland. Jeepers! These punk geezers have been so damned influential that everyone from the Offspring (remember them?) to NOFX to show openers Bouncing Souls claim Bad Religion (pictured) as an important influence.

They’ve released 15 studio albums, including their latest, The Descent of Man, along with numerous EPs and live discs and 45s and other musical ephemera. Bad Religion are legendary, and they are still punk. But we think Crawdaddy! magazine said it best: “At this point, Bad Religion albums are like Brady Bunch reruns. There are no real surprises, you know exactly what’s coming, but you’ll probably enjoy it unless you’re some kind of uptight asshole.”


Bad Religion will kick your ass on Saturday (Oct. 16) at 8 PM at Northern Lights (1208 Route 146, Clifton Park). Bouncing Souls and Off With Their Heads are also on the bill. Tickets are $25. For more info, call 371-0012.

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