nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

Laurie Anderson's _49 Days in the Bardo_

I haven't been able to find any evidence that the installation will be shown again, but in case it might be and you want to see it fresh, I'm putting my description under a cut. There's some pretty raw emotional stuff (the installation is a tribute to Anderson's dead rat terrier, Lolabelle, and there is a larger issue invoked), but there is no way I can be more specific without spoiling the effect.

The installation was a tribute to Laurie Anderson's rat terrier, Lolabelle.

The upper floor was shown first, and it was mostly huge paintings in black, white, and gray-- most of them were chaotic images of dogs and people. One was a gigantic portrait head of the dog. The chaotic pictures left me feeling shaken up, but in a good way. I spent most of my attention on the portrait.

The bardo is the place where souls spend 49 days between incarnations.

There was also a terra cotta violin, and handouts-- not especially close to it, which explain that cremation for a dog leaves some of the fur intact. When Anderson was mixing the ashes into the wet clay, she suddenly smelled the same thing she would have in Lolabelle had just come out of a bath.

There was also a block covered with iron (?) filings. Under the surface, there was a magnet that ran on a pattern that kept redrawing a simple outline of Lolabelle-- the filings would shift a little as the magnet went under them. I took it as a way of saying that we keep remaking our mental images, but that's just my opinion.

The floor below was dark. There were about half a dozen little video thingummies. I don't know whether any others have been made. There were small ceramic(?) bas reliefs, maybe 6" tall, with video cameras projecting loops on them. Even though the bas reliefs were static, there was a pretty good illusion of three dimensional motion.

All but one of them were brief loops, but that exception was Anderson telling a story. I came in at the middle, and I'm going to recount it as I heard it. This is from memory, and is probably incomplete.

She'd gone on a retreat to a monastery in the Pacific Northwest. The monks would slip food to her, and she and Lolabelle spent a good bit of time walking around outside.

At some point, three turkey vultures were circling overhead, and eventually it became clear that they were considering whether Lolabelle was small enough to be worth attacking.

When Lolabelle noticed this, her world changed. Rat terriers are working dogs, and their focus is on protecting territory. Suddenly, she was responsible for and afraid of what was above her as well as what was around her.

She started walking oddly, looking above her.... and Anderson realized she'd seen that before, in New Yorkers after 9/11.

That was where the story ended, but I stayed to hear the beginning.

Anderson wanted to get away from the added security in New York after 9/11 and to spend time getting better communion with Lolabelle. Some dogs can understand 500 words, and Anderson wanted to understand what Lolabelle was thinking.

A review with some pictures.

Video of Anderson talking about the installation, with a few bits of it.

An interview when Anderson about the installation which I can't get to play-- let me know if it works for you.

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