Laurie Anderson is one of today’s premier multimedia artists, known for her achievements as a visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, vocalist, and instrumentalist, and her innate ability to meld her dynamic practices into new and vibrant forms. Her seemingly boundless oeuvre includes the creation of books, albums, and performances that incorporate film, slides, recorded audio, live music, and spoken word. Anderson has long been recognized as a groundbreaking leader in the use of technology in the arts and has developed new musical instruments, including the tape bow violin, in which the bow has been replaced with magnetic audiotape and the bridge with a reader. In MASS MoCA’s B6: The Robert W. Wilson Building, Anderson invites viewers to explore a multi-functional constellation of galleries and installations including a working studio, audio archive, exhibition venue, and a virtual reality environment for experiences she co-created with Hsin-Chien Huang. Taken together, the exhibition highlights both Anderson’s creative process and some of her most unforgettable works.
In 2011, the death of Laurie Anderson's dog, Lolabelle, triggered a series of works, including Lolabelle in the Bardo. A practicing Buddhist, Anderson imagined her dog in the Bardo — a place in which, according to The Tibetan Book of the Dead, all living things must spend 49 days in preparation for reincarnation. Anderon's large-scale (10 x 14 feet) charcoal drawings of Lollabell's journey are vast and gestural, open in a way that makes you feel like you can leap inside of them.
The Chalkroom, a virtual reality work, is comprised of a series of rooms — walls covered with drawings and text in chalk — surrounding an assortment of interactive storytelling devices. She and her team mapped the virtual room so that when you don the VR headset you begin in a familiar place. But soon yuo find yourself gliding through a labrynthy of rooms, as bits of text fly by and stories ring out in your ears.
Laurie Anderson's second virtual reality piece begins with you sitting inside an airplane, which slowly dissolves around you until you are left hovering in space. There is no panic, no plummet, just objects drifting by that you can grab and hold close. Each object in your grasp tells a story, and Anderson's voice, as our pilot and guide, soothes any fear.
Principal exhibition support is provided by the Sakana Foundation. Major support for virtual reality installation with Hsin-Chien Huang is provided by The Rainbow Initiative Funds for Collaborative Cultural Project by Ministry of Culture, Taiwan, and National Chengchi University, Taiwan. Additional support is provided by Bowers & Wilkins.