Laurie Anderson: “Artificial intelligence, this extended version of the mind, fascinates me”

She felt the switch to the digital age coming and continues to question our relationship to technology. Laurie Anderson will soon be at Bozar, which is programming two concerts, two films and an immersive exhibition.

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In 1981 appears Oh Superman, a long repetitive electronic poem whose subject auscultates the paradox of incommunicability in a society dedicated to hypercommunication. A year later, the album “Big Science” – an astonishing mirror of the passion for information technologies – continues the shift operated by its author, Laurie Anderson, who blurs the boundaries and brings the avant-garde into the hit -parade. At the time, Anderson performed in United States, a multimedia fresco that questions communication systems, pointing out their ingenuity and their absurdities. Fascinated by language and the principles of connection, Laurie Anderson – forty years ago – saw the digital mutation approaching, redefining the relationship between people and people, people and space, people and time.

In forty years, his work (films, performances and a dozen albums) has never stopped documenting these changes, exploring all the possibilities offered by new technologies. At 75, she is the prestigious guest of Bozar which programs two concerts, but also To The Moonvirtual experience, Home Of The Bravecapture among others of the show United States, and Heart Of A Dog, a very beautiful film around the theme of loss inspired by the death of his dog Lolabelle. In New York, Laurie Anderson shared Lou Reed’s life until his disappearance in 2013. When, at the end of the conversation, she was asked which man she had known, he who had a reputation for being cantankerous, she did not has only one answer: “He was the nicest person I’ve ever met”.

Bozar has just inaugurated To The Moon, an immersive installation that you designed with Hsin-Chien Huang. Is it a tribute to the first man on the Moon or rather your techno-poetic vision of the Moon?
Laurie Anderson- The project makes it possible to discover different images of the Moon. Nasa’s Moon, that is, a kind of industrial waste landscape. It is certainly not the intention of men, but it is probably a result of human action. But it is also about the Moon in Chinese poetry, the Moon adventure, the Moon in history… And this story that we tell who wonders who owns the Moon… The Russians claim to have sent the first ship there, Americans claim to have walked there, while Italians say “no, no, we’ve seen it before”.

With this work, you explore the possibilities of virtual reality…
Unlike the experience of a movie you loved, which enveloped you and which you come out looking for your coat, in the experience of virtual reality you need your whole body. I think it’s an interesting avenue for cinema to follow… In general, we say that technology allows you to distance yourself from your body, in this case, you need your body to travel. Virtual reality is a more active way of watching.

You were the first artist in residence at NASA. What does that mean?
I will remind you that I was the first but also the last… I must admit that they are very busy over there, and I was like a flying fly. I’ve spent time with engineers, and talked a lot to nanotech people, people more interested in discussing theory. But I was there when they placed a Rover vehicle on Mars…

One of the two concerts you will give in Brussels is called Songs For Amelia Earhart. What connection do you have with this aviation pioneer who disappeared in 1937 while attempting a world tour?
I like his ambition. I like his will to want to fly, and then I like stories about travel. I wrote this electronic music show in the 2000s, it evolved into a version for string orchestra and it is this version that we will play. (On December 1, Laurie Anderson will be accompanied by the Brussels Philharmonic under the direction of Dennis Russell Davies – Ed.) The second concert will be new. It will be a combination of improv and songs from “Landfall” (album she recorded with the Kronos Quartet in 2018 – Ed.), all arranged by Belgian orchestrator Stéphane Collin.

You open your first album “Big Science” in 1982, with a song that says “This is the time. And this is the record of the time” – “Here is the moment. And here is the record of the moment”. Are you aware of the visionary dimension of this album?
I think it’s a record that always sounds new. One of the new things about this record is that its subject matter is politics. A work of art is an object through which I try to understand what is happening to the world, that’s what I tried to convey by mixing music, poetry, words. I was aware of the power of the words I used, and I still am because it’s the present that counts. “Here is the time. And here is the disc of the momentsums up everything I do. Thank you for bringing out this sentence, I appreciate it because sometimes I think “no one seems to get what i’m saying”.

Your work looks at language. Human language, machine language, connection language, sign language. Are you a language explorer?
I hope. Either way, I feel inclined towards it. And my current work around artificial intelligence pursues this interest in connection. It fascinates me, this expanded version of the mind and this expanded memory. The best benefit that can be derived from artificial intelligence in terms of social applications is imagination. The most interesting things artificial intelligence suggests are the things we haven’t thought of.

How do you observe the use of the Internet and social networks? As an extension of democracy in terms of freedom of expression or a new prison of the mind?
We all know it’s both! Even if we can’t make this kind of generalization… I love having information quickly, it’s just fantastic. Regarding networks, there are certain things that encourage gambling, but there are also all the others that feed the cultural dimension. Although we must not fall into generalizations, it seems that there has been a collapse of benevolence. It seems to me that people are more reckless. It’s a stressful situation that produces new fears, and I really believe that people don’t have as much empathy for each other as they used to.

To The Moon, until 8/1/2023.
Heart of a Dog, 11/28.

Home of the Brave, 11/30.
Concerts on 1 and 2/12 Bozar, Brussels.

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Laurie Anderson: “Artificial intelligence, this extended version of the mind, fascinates me”

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