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Portrait of Laurie Anderson

Portrait of Laurie Anderson by Ebru Yildiz

For half a century, she has taken the things we know best-- our bodies, our rituals, our nation -- and shown us how strange they really are.

When the Hirshhorn Museum told Laurie Anderson that it wanted to put on a big, lavish retrospective of her work, she said no. For one thing, she was busy. She has been busy now for roughly 50 years, hauling her keyboards and experimental violins all over the world to put on huge bonanzas of lasers and noise loops and incantatory monologues that she delivers in a voice somewhere between slam poetry, an evening newscast, a final confession and a bedtime story. Although Anderson plays multiple instruments, her signature tool has always been her voice. Words emerge from her mouth deliberate and hyperenunciated, surrounded by unpredictable pauses. She piles up phrases the way van Gogh piled up brush strokes.

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