What I Witnessed: On Laurie Anderson

I was lucky enough to catch multi-media artist Laurie Anderson’s show, The Weather, at The Hirshhorn Museum this August 2022, and Anderson remains a provocative, complex, and searching artist even in the latter days of her five-decade-plus career. Anderson’s 2022 work also is playful, elusive, and at times, blunt, and of course, ironic. The Weather, for me, was tonally dystopic, but also pulse-beatingly creative.

Her show weaved through the circle of this uniquely concentric museum; one room called into question the experiencing of a mechanical environment, for me. Anderson had red flags in a hallway that moved at times by mechanical arms to an eerie, recorded soundscape. Each side had five or so flags. On each side, most but not all the flags moved in unison, like soldiers, like slow dancers. The dark room’s lighting exposed some of the gentle contours of each flag’s blood-red draping.

What does it mean to have an interpretative or emotional experience of this technology? That’s what I mean by her work calling “experiencing” into question.

Generally, this red-flag piece spoke to how environments shape us. Of course, it also had an eerie and yet graceful effect. My friend alongside also commented on the red connotations to blood and war. Today, a day later, the red made me think about passion. Red flags as metaphor.

The show was larger than this. There was a room of onsite images and text from floor to ceiling that appeared to be made onsite. Further along, there was a room of large scale paintings of a loose brushwork and atmospheric figures and landscapes. There were two rooms involving imagistic projections. Anderson is a multimedia artist indeed.

I happened this August to visit MASS MOCA, an amazing contemporary art museum in North Adams, Mass., and saw two or three films of Anderson there too. She’s wonderful, provocative, curious, odd, and I plan on returning to and exploring more of her work this year. The Weather, at The Hirshhorn Museum, was overwhelming, provocative, impactful, and disorienting in good way.

G. H. Mosson