New York Artist Laurie Anderson Charms Santiago

Although not acknowledged as such by the majority of Chilean critics, Laurie Anderson's performance August 31 at Espacio Riesco was a total success.

The performance of her newest record "Homeland" proved Anderson's ability to provide commentary on American politics while maintaining sound, thoughtful compositions has not dwindled over the course of her 35-year career as a multimedia artist, musician, performance artist, political critic and – in her own words - "artist, New Yorker and woman, in that order of importance."

Photo courtesy Jessica Parra Nowajewski
Photo courtesy Jessica Parra Nowajewski

"Homeland" echoes her 1983 multimedia performance "United States I-IV" with its overt political themes and use of varying techniques to communicate those themes (e.g. computer manipulation of her voice, an electric violin, and a combination of singing and storytelling). Unlike the grandiose 1983 performance, Anderson employed fewer technological gadgets and instruments this time around, playing alongside keyboardist Skuli Sverrisson and bass guitarist and cellist Okkyung Lee.

The themes of “Homeland” ranged from criticisms of Bush-era politics- giving special attention to the shortcomings of Donald Rumsfield- to satirical commentary on American consumerism. One of the highlights of the show was a song called “Underwear Gods,” in which Anderson tells the story of giant billboard underwear models morphing into life-sized gods walking the streets of Manhattan. Another gem was the electro pop-oriented song “Only an Expert,” in which she says, "problems are only problems when experts say they are. Torture? No problem. Invading a country and causing chaos and civil war? No problem. Experts are people who carry malpractice insurance because their solutions often become the problem."

Photo courtesy Jessica Parra Nowajewski
Photo courtesy Jessica Parra Nowajewski

Legendary rocker and Laurie's longtime husband, Lou Reed, also graced the stage for two mostly instrumental songs which were most noteworthy for giving the crowd just enough energy to make it to the end of the "Homeland" performance. Though far from boring, Anderson’s voice sometimes repeated itself in intonation and pace in a way that created a calm and at times "sleepy" environment. Lou Reed's noisy guitar and overt "I don't give a fuck attitude," just about knocked everybody awake.

Interestingly enough, “Homeland” ticket sales quickly picked up after Anderson's manager told the press that Mr. Reed would be joining the tour. Thanks, Lou.

A self-proclaimed storyteller, Laurie Anderson is particularly adept at conveying stories using short sentences and simple vocabulary. Despite a 12-hour flight from New York to Chile, the 60-year-old genius gave an energetic lecture at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) on the day of her arrival in Santiago. She told the story of being the very first artist in Residency at NASA. She also quoted French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Goddard: "Every story has a beginning, middle and an end, just not necessarily in that order." This sentiment echoes throughout "Homeland," where her stories flow like a Beat poem, with thematic structures laying the groundwork for narrative, but not necessarily where beginning, middle and end fall.

Thanks, Laurie, for making it all the way to Chile.

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