This Tuesday, I went to Manchester’s fanciest theatre venue, the Lowry, built on the remains of Manchester’s old industrial harbour at the Salford Quays, some two miles outside the city centre.
I went to see a show, part music, part poetry, part storytelling, with one of the world’s most interesting and famously obscure (but then again, aren’t they all?) performance artists, Laurie Anderson. The show is called The End of the Moon, and is centered on her two years as “Artist in Residence” with NASA. No, really.
She was as surprised as everybody else when they offered her the position as artist in residence, and none of the NASA dudes seemed to have given much thought to what she would actually do as an artist in the hi-tech temple of the final frontier.
So she milled about, saw the jet propulsion lab, mission control, take off centre and so on, asked questions and studied files, until they finally asked her to make a report on her findings. Since she was fired halfway through her first draft, as some senator stumbled upon the words “Artist in residence” in the NASA budget, and didn’t think that that looked too good, she decided to change directions with that report, and this show is meant to be it.
It’s just Laurie on a dark stage, covered with candles, playing her violin and telling anecdotes about NASA, life in general and odd bits of pseudo-philosophy. Her voice is the focal point of it all, so soothing and dreamy, that alone would be enough.
But of course, it helps that she is occasionally witty, occasionally poetic and mysteriously intense all the time. I quite enjoyed it.