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Homeland Hipster 

click to enlarge Laurie Anderson will perform Homeland at The Egg in Albany on September 21.
  • Laurie Anderson will perform Homeland at The Egg in Albany on September 21.

Performance artist Laurie Anderson first gained international attention when her single “O Superman” reached number two on the British pop charts in 1981. She went on to record six albums for Warner Brothers Records and tour extensively. In 2002, Anderson was appointed the first artist-in-residence of NASA. Her current show, Homeland, has a spare setting, with votive candles; Anderson delivers monologues and performs on violin, keyboards, and erhu (Chinese fiddle). Appearing with her are Okkyung Lee on cello, keyboardist Peter Scherer, and Skuli Sverrisson on bass. Homeland is Anderson’s most political work to date. Nonesuch Records will release a CD of the piece in 2009. I spoke with her as she walked to the beach in the Hamptons. She straggled behind some friends, husband Lou Reed, and a dog. At 61, Anderson is still elfin and insatiably curious.

Laurie Anderson will perform Homeland at The Egg in Albany on Sunday, September 21 at 7:30pm.
(518) 473-1845;

So you’re on a break from touring. I looked at your tour schedule. Now I understand your whole year.
Yeah, you would by looking at my schedule, that’s true.

It must be weird, touring.
I really do enjoy it, because I’m a spy. You know, that’s a perfect thing for a spy to do: travel around and take notes.

You’re in disguise.
Yeah, deep disguise. I think a uniform is the best disguise.

You’ve got your own uniform. Don’t you wear a hipster uniform, at your shows?
Yeah, it’s the regulation hipster black uniform.

That’s what you perform in, usually?
Well, only out of laziness.

I saw a video of you on this tour, on your secret press website. But I don’t know where you were playing.

I’ve performed Homeland in clubs and theaters. The biggest place was the Herod Atticus Theater—that was amazing.

What’s that?

It’s a 2,000-year-old amphitheater at the Acropolis in Greece. It’s where the Greek tragedies were performed, when they were just written! It’s on the side of the hill, as you wind up to the Parthenon.

You played at night?

You can only perform at night because it’s so hot. It was 108 degrees when we were there. We worked there the night before, setting the lights and stuff, and at 3am the stone seats are still really boiling hot. That’s how hot it is there. It’s blastingly hot.

Actually, I walked up that hill. I was in Athens, and I found a free ticket to the Acropolis. And as I walked that hill, I remember looking at those houses—you pass small Athenian villas.

Yes, they’re beautiful.

And I thought: “That’s where I want to live—in one of those little houses!”
Wow! So where are you calling from?

I’m calling from Phoenicia.
Nice! So you got there!

Phoenicia, New York—do you know it?
Yes, I do.

Right! Because you know everywhere. You travel everywhere.
I know everywhere!

Well, if you ever come here, you should go tubing.
I love tubing.

Really? Who would’ve guessed that you enjoy tubing? But it’s a little dangerous, tubing.

Oh, I like danger.

That’s why you’re taking on the whole Homeland Security establishment!
[In a steely voice] That’s right! That’s right!

Do you ever think they might just come and arrest you, for the Homeland show?

No, no. It hasn’t come to that point. Do you think it will?

Well, I think Barack Obama is going to save us. You know, save us from this fascism.

Yeah, it is fascism. Let’s call it fascism. It’s oppressed a lot of people, and depressed them. And I don’t think Americans are a naturally fearful people. We’re not naturally paranoid. The fearmongering is very annoying, I find. And insulting. I’m tired of being treated like a 10-year-old!

You’re one of the people who invented performance art, don’t you think?

So they say. It didn’t have a name then, that’s for sure.

Exactly! That’s a sign you may have invented it.

[Laughs.] Or I may have been standing next to the person who invented it!

I’m a student of performance art. One theory of mine is that it tended to become a form of standup comedy.

One offshoot of it did, with Karen Finley and Eric Bogosian.

Or sit-down comedy, which was more what Spalding Gray did.
Sit-down sadness—that’s another genre.

Yours is more like standup violin-playing.
That’s it! A whole new category!

Your work is related to Jack Benny, in a way.

I love Jack Benny. I loved the way he used his violin. He laughed, and the violin cried. They were a great team.

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  • Laurie Anderson brings her latest show, Homeland, to the Egg on September 21.


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