because the personal is cultural
Laurie Anderson's Delusion, photo by Leland Brewster
If the world is going to end, Laurie Anderson might as well be your travelling companion. That’s at least how she made me feel last night at the Montreal premiere of her show Delusion. Though the many stories she tells over the 90 minutes the show lasts might at first appear eclectic, a sense of the end of the world pervades all of them, or at the very least the end of life. Ends even, for as she points out, from the moment we come into this world, we are destined for multiple deaths.
The scenography is simple, even basic, but effective. A rock-like structure in the middle of the stage acts as a screen for smaller grey rocks that constantly mutate in watery ripples. On the screen at the back, the largest of four, a small wooden frame appears within which, appropriately, leaves fall. This is not only coincidental; as we will find out, Delusion takes place within a perpetual, rainy autumn. The Great Flood. On either side, two smaller screens. The one on the left, like the blank pages of an open book; on the right, rippled like the bed sheet of an unmade bed. The latter is also the first image to appear on them, sheets of a peachy skin colour.
Unlike Anderson’s recorded material, highly cerebral, the music she creates for the show is surprisingly cinematic, sometimes even downright emotional. As she takes on a deep electronically modified male voice, her mysterious synth composition is reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s score for Twin Peaks. It is just as probable that things might turn out to be gloomy or funny. The darkness of the candle-lit room, the smoke that fills the screens as well as the stage itself, visible in the narrow strips of light, and the red curtains on video all facilitate the comparisons to David Lynch, as cliché as those might be. The incessant music cradles the audience from left to right, allowing them to comfortably settle into the slow and hypnotic show.
From early on, Anderson commands a certain reverence. There is indeed something mythic about her. She is as comfortable on stage as any performer I have ever seen. She playfully interacts with the projection, swaying her foot in front of the projector beam so that its shadow appears to be treading the video ground. And, as if her stage presence wasn’t enough, she is also a gifted storyteller.
Even when Anderson tackles such serious issues as colonialism or the consequences of rampant capitalism in America, she manages to do it with lightness and humour, never forgetting the ultimate absurdity of life. And, therefore, of death too. So, if this is indeed the end of the world, we can be thankful that there is Anderson’s voice to put everything back into perspective, to make us laugh and reassure us.
October 4-6 at 8pm
Tickets: 40$ / Under 31 years old: 30$
has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.
s.verstricht [at] gmail [dot] com