LA is born June 5, 1947, in Chicago, the second of eight children of Mary Louise Rowland (b. 1926) and Arthur Anderson ( 1910-1999). Her maternal grandparents were from Scotland and England, paternal grandparents were from Sweden and Ireland. The family lives in a large redwood house in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, designed by LA's mother as a series of large connecting rooms for family play and entertainment. LA begins violin lessons at age 7 and becomes a member of the Chicago Youth Orchestra in 1961. Is selected as Junior Miss Illinois in 1965 and travels to Europe as part of Talented Teens USA that same year. Also in 1965 leaves Chicago to attend Mills College as a pre-med student. Moves to New York the following year and enrolls at Barnard College; graduates summa cum laude with a BA with honors in art history in 1969. During a year between college and graduate school she takes sculpture classes with Sol Lewitt and Carl Andre at the School of Visual Arts, where she makes a series of "talking boxes."


As a graduate student at Columbia University majoring in sculpture, LA also studies art history with Meyer Schapiro, printmaking with Tony Harrison, and philosophy with Arthur Danto. Focuses on texts by Merleau Ponty on phenomenology and perception, and studies Buddhist literature on mudra (postures and hand gestures representing the states of higher consciousness). After graduation, writes art reviews for various magazines and teaches art history at colleges in New York City. Executes a series of performances in which she sleeps in public places; performs An Afternoon of Automatic Transmission, an outdoor car concert in Rochester, Vermont ; meets artists Joel Fisher and Richard Nonas; writes October, a handmade diary; and creates Ecotectural Fables, a series of collages about the relationship between animals and architecture.


LA organizes O-Range, a performance with her students in a stadium at City College, New York, followed by a mixed- media exhibition of the same name, which includes film loops and photo-text works at Artists Space, her first gallery show. Meets artist Vito Acconci; also meets composer Philip Glass and sits in on his rehearsals (as do many artists), about which Sol Lewitt says, "I do my best work at Phil's rehearsals." LA describes New York of the early '70s as "Paris in the '20s," and notes the lack of boundaries between disciplines. Her artist friends include Gordon Matta- Clark, Tina Girouard, Jene Highstein, Dicki Landry, and Keith Sonnier. LA is part of Thought Structures, an exhibition at Pace University, and writes Transportation Transportation, a series of booklets with twenty-six pairs of stories constructed around the alphabet. Some of these stories will reappear in United States ten years later. LA exhibits Object/Objection/ Objectivity, a work comprising texts and photographs of men who make comments about her as she passes them on the street.


DEARREADER, a black-and-white 8-mm film/performance codirected with Bob George, is shown at Holly Solomon Gallery. As:If, Anderson's first multimedia gallery performance, takes place at Artists Space. LA receives a CAPS grant and visits her anthropologist brother Thor in Chiapas, Mexico, where they live with a group of Tzotzil Indians. She also hitchhikes to the north pole, camping in remote areas. Performs Tales from the Vienna Woods at Projects Gallery in Boston; How to Yodel in an evening of performance called "Soup and Tart" at The Kitchen, New York; and Tales from the Vienna Woods at various venues in the United States and Europe. LA's loft is broken into and almost all her possessions are destroyed or stolen, an incident that she records in a handmade, thirty-six-page booklet, Light in August. She constructs Windbook, a diary of handwritten stories and photographs installed in a box, whose pages are turned by small hidden fans. At the Clocktower, New York, LA performs In the Nick of Time, a performance with film projection, and Duets On Ice, an outdoor work in five New York City locations, in which she wears ice skates set in blocks of ice and plays her Self-Playing Violin, a violin with a cassette player installed in its body, which accompanies her playing.


LA moves into a new loft on Canal Street, where she installs a twenty-tree "forest" of small pine trees. Works at ZBS Media, an experimental recording studio in upstate New York, where she meets Bob Bielecki, an audio engineer and designer with whom she will collaborate on developing numerous unusual musical instruments. Records Talking Book, and performs Songs and Stories for the Insomniac at Artists Space, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and Oberlin College in Ohio. Performs Out of the Blue at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and at alternative spaces and museums in Europe, and Duets on Ice in Genoa, Italy. Shows At the Shrink's, a fake hologram created by projecting a Super-8 film loop onto an eight-inch clay figure, at Holly Solomon Gallery, New York. Forms the Fast Food Band with friends Peter Gordon, Jack Majewski, Arthur Russell, and Scott Johnson, and they appear at the Fine Arts Building in New York, performing the "Fast Food Blues," a long song-complaint about photo documentation. She and Bielecki make the Viophonograph, a turntable mounted on a violin that is played with a bow in which a record needle has been inserted. She writes her first dance score, for Mary Overlie.


LA presents For Instants: Part 3, Refried Beans as part of "Line Up," a performance series at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, at a four-day festival of performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and later at colleges and alternative spaces in the United States and Europe. Receives a grant from the Gallery Association of New York State and works with downtown musicians including Arthur Russell, Scott Johnson and Rhys Chatham. Records several songs produced by Peter Gordon at ZBS Media. Performs Stereo Stories at the M.L.D'Arc Gallery, New York, and English while on tour with performance artists Julia Heyward and Jana Haimsohn in Germany, Denmark, and Holland. Performs Road Songs at St. Marks Poetry Project and Songs at Meet the Composer at the New School in New York. LA and Bob Bielecki design the Tape Bow Violin; a Revox tape is mounted where the bridge would normally be, and the bow is strung with a single strip of prerecorded audiotape instead of horsehair.


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Laurie Anderson
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 2
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 11
  • The 1970s 30
  • The 1980s 83
  • The 1990s 146
  • Biography 190
  • Records, Films, Videos, Cd-Rom's, Scores, and Songs 195
  • Selected Bibliography 196
  • Acknowledgments 199
  • Index 200
  • Photograph Credits 204


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