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Lecture 26

ENGL 40761 Lecture 26: ClassNotes-LaurieAnderson2

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ENGL 40761
Fredman Stephen

❏ Beginning: “Strange Angels: Laurie Anderson and Spirituality at the End of Cold War” by Prof. Stephen Fredman (excerpts and key ideas) ❏ “The multimedia performance artist Laurie Anderson...creates work that draws easily from both the historical avant-garde and from the seemingly opposed realm of kitsch and cliche associated with popular culture” ❏ Anderson and many other artists “use a carefully calibrated deadpan delivery to mix the avant-garde and the everyday, with the purpose of defamiliarizing both high theory and the slogans and cliches of popular culture, creating work that combines an often biting political irony with a studied naivete in the face of the monumentality of media-delivered language and images” ❏ In the late 80s, “Anderson began to add to her political and cultural analyses more explicitly spiritual themes, especially in Strange Angels (1989)” ❏ Released at “the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing dissolution of the Soviet Union” ❏ Responded to the phenomenon that the “Televisual spectacle of history” became a part of daily life ❏ Angels and individual souls ❏ History of angels (Who are they and what are their functions) for Anderson ❏ Three lineages: 1) Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) and Rilke’s Duino Elegies (1924) 2) Anselm Kiefer’s sculptures Angel of History (1989) and Book with Wings (1994), Walter Benjamin’s angel of history, and Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus (1920) 3) Robert Mapplethorpe’s portraits of Laurie Anderson on the album covers of Strange Angels and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America ❏ She “embeds herself in cultural history” with ease ❏ Her angels are rooted in present and “represent change not only by looking forward but also backward” ❏ Robert Mapplethorpe’s portraits of Laurie Anderson: Strange Angels in some way “is addressed to Mapplethorpe and the AIDS epidemic” (Mapplethorpe death from AIDS followed that of his lover Sam Wagstaff) ❏ “So when you see a man who’s broken/Pick him up and carry him/And when you see a woman who’s broken/put her all into your arms” (from “Ramon”) ❏ Song “Hiawatha” ❏ It contains many citations. Examples: “From the land of sky blue waters,” “Starlight Starbright,” “Marilyn and John F. dancing,” “While the king sings Love Me Tender,” “This is Captain Midnight speaking” (Captain radio), “Wild Blue” ❏ Perfect collage song ❏ Cowboys, Indians ❏ Hiawatha: Longfellow’s epic poem/ Native American leader ❏ Sound real, but largely fictional ❏ “O Superman” (1981) ❏ Intro ❏ In 2001, Anderson had a concert scheduled at Town Hall for less than a week after 9/11 ❏ She reflected on a series of old songs and completely changed her concert program for the concert after 9/11 ❏ “O Superman” and a few other pieces were quite pathetic (e.g. “here comes the planes”) ❏ Many songs were written around the time of the first gulf war ❏ “O Superman” was altered from a prayer in Massenet’s El Cid (“O Superman/O Judge/ O Mom and Dad” ) ❏ What you made out of “O Superman” ❏ The song is about authority to some extent. Feels like 1984. (“When love is gone, there is always justice...”) ❏ Who is mom? All kinds of attributes. ❏ Anonymous voice. Not like human performing it. ❏ The song was created at the moment when the answering machine was
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