Initially trained as a sculptor, Laurie Anderson did her first performance-art piece in the late 1960s. Throughout the 1970s, Anderson did a variety of different performance-art activities. She became widely known outside the art world in 1981 when her single “O Superman” reached number two on the UK pop charts. She also starred in and directed the 1986 concert film Home of the Brave, which was based on her landmark recording Mister Heartbreak ((Warner Bros. 1984)
She has once again directed her creative energies toward film with the release this October of Heart of a Dog at once a mediation on life, loss and the passage of time.
Anderson started dating Lou Reed in 1992, and was married to him from 2008 until his death in 2013. Together they became the First Couple of the downtown New York scene. While the film covers much territory I suspect her relationship and loss of Reed is at its core.
“Lou and I played music together, became best friends and then soul mates, traveled, listened to and criticized each other’s work, studied things together (butterfly hunting, meditation, kayaking). We made up ridiculous jokes; stopped smoking 20 times; fought; learned to hold our breath underwater; went to Africa; sang opera in elevators; made friends with unlikely people; followed each other on tour when we could; got a sweet piano-playing dog; shared a house that was separate from our own places; protected and loved each other. We were always seeing a lot of art and music and plays and shows, and I watched as he loved and appreciated other artists and musicians. He was always so generous. He knew how hard it was to do. We loved our life in the West Village and our friends; and in all, we did the best we could do.” (“Laurie Anderson’s Farewell to Lou Reed”, Rolling Stone Magazine, 11/13/2013.)
There is an intimate warmth and bloom about her film and soundtrack Heart of a Dog. What was initiated as a short personal video essay by Arte television, as part of series of conversations with artists talking about the meaning of life, Anderson’s story began as a tribute to the memory of her dog Lolabelle and pretty much turned into a visual analog for poetry. Her film offers a variety of images that follow her stories. The film serves as an intimate and profoundly touching guide into her thoughts, emotions and observations. At the center of the imagery and subtle ambiances and strings, stands her voice which is mesmerizing and hypnotic. Her abstract thoughts on a variety of subjects, such as death, love, loss, grief are tapping deeply into the subconscious and resonate strongly in the way poetry does. She loves to examine a certain subject from innumerable angles and that sounds like an amazing outpouring of stories in a stream of consciousness manner that subtly intertwine, mesh and morph together. The result to that is a compelling, single intimate story. (All About Jazz, 11/6/2015)
What follows is partly a meditation on loss and love that begins with the death of her mother and moves on to include the deaths of Ms. Anderson’s talented and tuneful rat terrier, Lolabelle; her friend, the brilliant artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978); and her husband, Lou Reed. Mr. Reed, who died in 2013, hovers over “Heart of a Dog,” his face surfacing intermittently and fleetingly, wavering into visibility like an image that’s caught behind glass or reflected in a mirror, a distancing that suggests that he is present and not present at the same time. (New York Times, 10/20/2015)
“Every love story is a ghost story,” Ms. Anderson says at one point, quoting David Foster Wallace, yet another lingering spirit.
The complete soundtrack recording of Laurie’s newest piece, Heart of a Dog, is available from Nonesuch Records. The Nonesuch album is the full audio recording of the film, including all music and spoken text, and is available to order now on iTunes and in the Nonesuch Store. A limited-edition print autographed by Laurie Anderson is included with orders in the Nonesuch Store while quantities last.