Written by Dragan Vojvodić //
Recently, a significant retrospective exhibition is concluding at the Modena Museum (Moderna Museet), showcasing the works of Laurie Anderson (born 1947), an American avant-garde artist renowned for her innovative and diverse artistic practice that combines visual art, composition, poetry, photography, film, electronic music, social activism, and more.
Laurie Anderson is considered a pioneer of electronic music and has invented several musical instruments that she used in her recordings and performances. She gained wider popularity in 1981 with the song „O Superman,“ which reached the second position on the British singles chart. In 1992, she met musician Lou Reed, whom she was married to from 2008 until his death in 2013. Laurie Anderson is the first and only artist to have been in an artistic residency with NASA. During one of the projects, she lived on an Amish farm and even worked at a McDonald’s restaurant for a period. Recently, she has been exploring new artistic technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).
„I primarily see myself as an artist, then as a New Yorker, and finally as a woman. These are positions I sometimes have to step out of,“ she stated in one of her interviews with foreign media.
„Looking into a Mirror Sideways“
The exhibition „Looking into a Mirror Sideways“ presents her conceptual works, performances, innovative musical instruments, social activism, VR works, and more. It combines early and recent works across various mediums such as painting, sculpture, analog photography, audio tapes, and film reels with the digital realm.
In this most significant European retrospective of Laurie Anderson to date, she explores the complexity of time, space, human existence, as well as the interplay between narration and museum architecture. Themes of time, existence, silence, and noise are thematized.
A special aspect of Laurie Anderson’s artistic practice presented in this Stockholm exhibition, alongside sound and music experiments, is language and storytelling. Works incorporating narrative elements delve into identity and the roles we assume and are given. In some works, Anderson explores her ancestry through photo documentation of her grandfather, a Swedish immigrant who came to America in the 19th century. She then creates an imaginative connection with Ingmar Bergman films and the Swedish language, which she doesn’t speak or understand.
Furthermore, through narrative, combining photography and text, she examines the position of women in American society. In the 1973 work „Object,“ she photographs men who make lascivious comments to her during her daily walks in Houston, thereby portraying the position of women in a society characterized by inequality and distorted values.
In the work „Institutional Dream,“ she attempts to delve into dreams in open or enclosed public spaces, exploring consciously and unconsciously the interactions an individual-subject has with the world around them in a poetic-narrative manner.
In the 1986 performance „Drum Dance (Home to the Brave),“ dressed in a white synthetic jumpsuit, she dances and plays electric drums using sensors on her hands, projecting a futuristic image of a human immersed in the creative possibilities of modern technology.
In her more recent works, Anderson returns to more classical forms of expression like painting and drawing, but she doesn’t abandon technology. She combines them in large spatial installations. Through visually-textual units painted directly on the black walls of the Moderna Museet, combined with various objects whose movements are computer-programmed and VR technology that allows the audience to interact with the work, she transports the observer into a realm beyond physical existence, projecting visions of freedom, adventure, and wandering.
The exhibition „Looking into a Mirror Sideways,“ which has been running at the Moderna Museet since January 4th, can be visited until September 3rd, 2023.
The Modern Museum of Art (Moderna Museet)
The Modern Museum of Art (Moderna Museet), situated on Sheppsholmen Island, is an essential destination for contemporary art enthusiasts in Stockholm. Opened in 1958, it houses one of the finest collections of 20th-century art as well as recent artistic works. The collection includes works by Pablo Picasso, Kazimir Malevich, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Mona Hatoum, Marina Abramović, Braco Dimitrijević, Mladen Stilinović, Paul McCarthy, Martin Kippenberger, Rosemarie Trockel, and others. The museum features a restaurant and an excellent bookstore where visitors can find art books, souvenirs, photographs, exhibition catalogs, magazines, and more.
Particular attention is drawn to the presentation of a collection segment that includes works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Kazimir Malevich, Georges de Kirico, Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, and others. The artworks are displayed without museum labels, while nearby tables equipped with drawing materials, mostly intended for children, contain a map of the exhibit with the names of the works and their authors, requiring visitors to engage more actively in finding information about the artworks and prompting self-examination of their familiarity with contemporary art.