Artist Laurie Anderson visits campus Sept. 26-27

Pioneering multimedia artist Laurie Anderson will offer a public talk in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts as part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Arts Unplugged series during a two-day visit to campus.

Anderson is a writer, director, composer, visual artist, musician and vocalist who has created groundbreaking works that span the worlds of art, theater, experimental music and technology. Her recording career was launched by “O Superman” in 1981 and her work has included live shows ranging from simple spoken word experiences to expansive multimedia stage performances.

Anderson’s two-day visit is lead sponsored by the Milstein Program in Technology & Humanity. It is part of President Martha E. Pollack’s Freedom of Expression at Cornell initiative, a series of events organized to explore the significance, history and challenges of free expression and academic freedom. The initiative launches this semester and spans the 2023-24 academic year.

“Laurie Anderson epitomizes ‘thinking outside the box’ of genres and categories,” said Judith Peraino, professor of music (A&S) and one of the faculty hosts of Anderson’s visit. “It’s impossible to summarize her artistry, except to say that she combines traditional storytelling with the latest technological innovations in sound and visual media to create profound multidimensional experiences.”

Peraino will chat with Anderson during the Arts Unplugged event, “Building an Ark: A Conversation with Pioneering Artist Laurie Anderson,” set to begin at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26 in the Kiplinger Theatre. This event is free and open to the public, but it is already sold out and the waitlist is full.

The Arts Unplugged series brings research and creative works into the public sphere for discussion and inspiration. These outreach events invite a broad audience to explore the work of scholars and faculty from all disciplines, all backgrounds and all time periods and to celebrate the impact that work continues to have on our daily lives.

Along with this event, students are encouraged to sign up for the 15-minute “To The Moon” virtual reality experience at Cornell’s Center for Teaching Innovation, Room 123, 118 Computing and Communications Center on the Ag Quad. It will be available from Sept. 18-Oct. 6.

The piece, created by Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang, uses images and ideas from literature, science, science-fiction space movies and politics to create a dark new version of the moon. Space is limited and priority will be given to Cornell students.

Cornell Cinema is also screening three films by and about Anderson's work, free and open to the public, including:

“Sisters with Transistors,” which already took place on Sept. 5 and included an introduction by Peraino

“Home of the Brave,” Tuesday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m., with an introduction by Associate Professor Austin Bunn, of performing and media arts

“Heart of a Dog,” Tuesday, Sept. 19, 7 p.m., with an introduction by Cornell Cinema director Molly Ryan

PMA professor Austin Bunn, director of the Milstein Program, recalled a moment from a recent “60 Minutes” profile of Laurie that he said speaks to her singular brilliance.

“She cited a cryptographer who told her, ‘If you think technology can solve your problems, you don’t understand technology and you don’t understand your problems,’ ” Bunn said. “Her artist practice, across so many disciplines and fields, tries to both understand and confound — to wrestle beautifully with technology and our problems at the same time.”

Anderson’s career has spanned multiple decades. Recent work includes a solo exhibition at The Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C., titled “The Weather “(2021-2022), which showcased her storytelling process through her work in video, performance, installation, painting and other media. Her visual work is on long-term display at MASS MoCA and her three virtual reality works won several awards at the 74th Venice International Film Festival.

Anderson has received numerous honorary doctorates, prizes and awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship, Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize and the Wolf Prize.

Anderson continues to tour her evolving performance “The Art of Falling” and is working on an opera, “ARK,” commissioned by the Manchester International Festival, premiering in 2024.

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Laurie Anderson