Trouble: Laurie Anderson's shaggy dog story

Ive Stevenheydens
© Agenda Magazine
Laurie “O Superman” Anderson is kicking off the performance festival Trouble with the performance Dirtday! Another Day in America at the Centre for Fine Arts. The sexagenarian will discuss current affairs in her homeland. “I am very scared, but there is also hope.”

Dirtday! Another Day in America is the last part of a trilogy in which the New York-based singer and artist uses relatively sparse means to make performances about current affairs, her daily life, and all kinds of things that fascinate and occupy her. Supported by minimal, primarily electronic music, and the occasional video projection, she tells stories. Though her subjects are very diverse, Anderson presents them with a dash of mystery in her voice, with sensuality, and with great humour. This makes her audience hold its breath while it listens to her reflections on the books she has read and the authors that captivate her, philosophical wanderings or feminist positions. But Anderson’s anecdotes about her dog might be just as exciting. “I absolutely love long stories that twist and turn and go all over the place,” she says. “I prefer to write and present them myself. Just like a painter constructs a landscape with various elements, I let my soul skip through these stories. I like to lose myself in them. Though everything appears spontaneous, my stories are entirely calculated. The text is fixed, but the accompanying music is completely improvised.”

After Happiness (2002) and The End of the Moon (2004), Dirtday! aims to deal with the contemporary situation in America. Anderson does not feel completely comfortable there. Anderson: “We live in a tragic situation, in a period dominated by a great deal of fear. It seems as though the whole nation is hypnotised. Everybody is asleep, only a few are slightly awake. In Dirtday! I analyse this situation from various perspectives. I describe the world as it is and reflect on how it could be. Dirtday! – a reference, incidentally, to Earth Day – is about doubts, but also about aspirations. Above all, it is a celebration. That is why there is an exclamation mark in the title.”
More than ten years of crisis since 9/11, Anderson presents a state of affairs on the economic, social, and political climate. Anderson: “The new American laws are shocking. Obama spent New Year’s Eve signing the National Defense Authorization Act, by which the war on terrorism is quite simply intensified. Since the crisis, so many people have lost their jobs that actual tent cities have emerged. In New Jersey, just outside New York, hundreds of people are living in the woods. Without food or clothes: the only thing they possess are homemade shelters or old cars that they use as tents. I visit them regularly. And though their stories are very hard, in a strange way the system sort of works. These people are witnesses to alternative economic possibilities in a post-depression world. I would like to share it with the public.”

Roaring with laughter

Anderson warns us about the language she uses in Dirtday! Another Day in America. Bozar and Trouble will provide subtitles in French and Dutch. “It is very strange English and the content is very layered. If I’d been able to, I would have used subtitles in the USA as well. Dirtday! was still a work in progress there: the performance changed every time it was presented. For example, in Colorado it turned into a comedy: the audience kept bursting out laughing. And I don’t know whether I wrote a comedy. I want to talk about how dreams can become reality. Dirtday! is a shaggy dog story about social changes, ideals, and things I love. I try to question social situations and if possible, to change them, without ever becoming didactic in the attempt.”
(Photo: Laurie Anderson © Tim Knox)

29/5, 20.30, €17/22, Bozar Centre for Fine Arts

29/5 > 2/6 • Pass: €21, Hallen van Schaarbeek/Halles de Schaerbeek Koninklijke Sint-Mariastraat 22A rue Royale Sainte-Marie, Schaarbeek/Schaerbeek, 02-218.21.07,,

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