In The Record of Time exhibition in Dublin, Anderson hacks technologies and spaces, making things and places do things that they weren’t designed to do. She irreverently reappropriates media, lending it a performative drama. It’s a cut-up tactic purloined from William Burroughs, a mentor who plays a cameo role in a number of her works, including ‘The Voice of Authority’ (1986) a hanging receiver that transmits Burroughs’ dulcet tones and the epic performance ‘Home of the Brave’ (1986). Anderson’s modified violins, once the cutting edge of sampling technology and multimedia art, now look poignantly jerry built. ‘Neon Bow’ (1980) has a neon strip attached to it, transforming it into a DIY light sabre, an icon of its era.’ In Audio Glasses’ (1979) Anderson wears enormous Yoko Ono sunglasses miked up to amplify the sound of her fist tapping on her head, resulting in what looks like a retrofuturist paracetemol ad. The most striking thing about this retrospective is the datedness of everything. Here lies the work’s captivating contemporaneity. Only an art that is truly of its time can look so old so quickly. Anderson has always been of the moment, from the time-based performances in the 1970s such as ‘Duets on Ice’ (1975) and the ‘Institutional Dream Series’ (1972-3), to her transfiguration into the 80s new wave star of pop promos ‘Sharkey’s Day’ (1984) and ‘Beautiful Red Dress’ (1989). The 70’s work resonates with that of minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and fellow performance artists concerned with endurance and testing the limitations of the body. The 80’s videos are more at home in a high postmodern culture wherein conceptualism briefly found airtime on MTV, echoing the art-music-performance hybridity of Talking Heads, Devo and Grace Jones.
The End of the Moon (performed in Edinburgh in May this year) is a new solo performance produced after a two-year stint as the first (and last) artist in residence at NASA. Considering their affinity for experimentation and blowing technology apart, they are well matched bedfellows. Renowned as a multimedia pioneer, this piece is a humbled response to her patron’s extraordinary scientific know-how. Anderson is primarily a storyteller, blending art-pop-rock and vivid snippets; a modern-day troubadour espousing personal anecdotes. The perception of time and how it affects us and changes us is the overall theme of the piece. On a darkly shrouded stage, lit by candles and reliant on the power of words and her trademark electronic violin, she explores the contem-porary meaning of time in what is essentially a hushed meditation on uncertainty and trepidation about the future. Veering between wide ranging topics, from the war to her favourite haiku, Anderson’s trenchant narratives, while resembling poetry, still have that edge, that charming threat of becoming something other than we expect.
Dublin by Neil Mulholland, critic
Edinburgh by Deborah Jackson, student at Edinburgh College of Art