Being based in Australia means that most interviews need to be done over the phone. It’s a great disadvantage for a writer: profiles read best when keen observations can be made, physical characteristics described, and nuances intimated.
However, recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurie Anderson – the pixie like, performance artist spouse of Lou Reed – and despite being 10000 miles apart (Anderson was in New York) I didn’t experience the usual two-dimensional interview that I have had to become accustomed to. Instead speaking with Anderson was an inspiration, and her rhetoric had me so enraptured it felt as though we were two life long friends catching up on everything.
Anderson – along with Reed – has been put in charge of this year’s Vivid Festival at the Opera House, for which they have assembled a stellar line up. Although we did discuss the program, I waylaid her with more general questions about her life and work to date, and what ensued was an almost sermonic like interaction, whereby she had me hanging off her every word.
Anderson grew up one of eight children and says of her childhood, “It was anarchic rather than artistic. I wasn’t particularly encouraged to do one thing or another. Whatever you wanted to do was fine with them (her parents).”
She attended New York’s Barnard College in the late 60s, and whilst this was an interesting time in history – this was when the anti-war movement really picked up speed – it was also an interesting time for women, particularly those who attended that college. At that time students were not allowed to “cohabitate” (love that term) with the opposite sex, nor were they allowed to wear pants or shorts. These are regulations that are almost laughable for someone of my generation – but ignorantly so; the women of Anderson’s generation had to fight for many of the simple things that are taken for granted today. I asked her about the role she played at this point in time.
“I was very involved as a speaker, as a demonstrator, and as a political cartoonist. Recently a friend said to me, ‘Hey I was just in Washington, and you don’t know this – and I’m not supposed to tell you this – but you were nominated to be the head of the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). The problem is though that you have quite a file.’ I said ‘really?’ It goes back to when you were in college. First of all I was so proud of that; but also I can’t believe that they’re bothering to keep this kind of record of people. It was pretty shocking to realise that they were writing that kind of stuff down.”
The remainder of the interview will be in the next issue of Russh Magazine (out May 27). Vivid Live Sydney starts the same day.