Performance art is a pleasure for some, a mystery to most.But all will agree that Laurie Anderson is the queen of this uniquely creative form of presentation. This Saturday, the University Musical Society brings her highness to Hill Auditorium to perform her brand new “Happiness” solo tour.

Paul Wong
Anderson, thinking about Joan Jett.<br><br>Courtesy of University Musical Society

The show will feature stories and mainly acoustic instruments that take a look at contemporary culture. Like much of her work, this will make use of a wide variety of filters, including synthetic language, love songs, animal communication and techno burn out. To develop her own insightful and individual perspective on culture and happiness, Anderson has recently experimented with putting herself in unfamiliar and awkward situations like a short stint working at a Manhattan McDonalds. All this preparation and personal exploration has culminated in a unique night for both the audience and the performer, with much of the show devoted to a report on those experiences.

“Happiness” is a departure for Anderson on many levels because she has earned an international reputation as a high-tech magician of multi-media performance art, by combining computer synthesized music, videos and slides with her always-provocative monologues. Her enthusiasm for computers and the Internet is tempered by her disgust with corporate America. This solo work, however, will not feature the same high-tech folk artist that Laurie Anderson fans have come to love and revere. Rather, she chooses to focus on a simpler, natural format for her performance. Anderson has said, “After using a lot of technology for years, I”m trying to work with as little equipment as possible.”

A self-described storyteller, Anderson refuses to classify herself into any of the categories she so aptly fits, including visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, ventriloquist, electronics whiz, vocalist and instrumentalist. Her diverse and brave art stems from a deeply personal vision one she acquired as a young adult in the 1970s” vibrant, energetic SoHo art scene. Anderson gravitated to this hotbed of experimentalism and creativity early on and was soon immersed in SoHo”s burgeoning gallery scene. She has previously said, “It was a wonderful time. We were all pioneers.”

Anderson”s hit song, “O Superman,” launched her recording career in the 1980s, rising to number two on the British pop charts and skyrocketing her to international superstardom. She eventually signed a record deal with Warner Brothers and has since released seven albums with them, including “Big Science” and “United States Live.” She is currently recording her first release for her new label, Nonesuch Records. Her award winning CD-ROM, “Puppet Motel,” has just been re-released by Voyager.

Recognized worldwide as a leader in the groundbreaking use of technology in the arts, Ms. Anderson recently collaborated with Interval Research Corporation, a research and development laboratory founded by Paul Allen and David Liddle, in the exploration of new creative tools, including the “Talking Stick.” She has also just completed an entry about New York for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Anderson once told Rolling Stone, “Try to break as many (rules) as possible if you can. Not just for the sake of doing it, but for the feeling of freedom you get when you just step a little bit out and kind of go, “Whoa!”” That feeling of “Whoa!” will definitely be felt and understood by all those within the near vicinity of Hill Auditorium this Saturday night.

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