L is for Liquid, Loop, Laurie: Absent Voices of ‘Spending the War without You"

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


In a year flooded by online meetings and talks, remote teaching/home schooling, live and ‘on demand’ streaming and otherwise remediated presence/absence, Laurie Anderson’s latest piece “The River-Spending the War without You” stuck out of the horizon of web-based life and fatigue provoked by it. It is a lecture performance/video documentary work/zoom talk, the first in a series of six lectures, “looking at the challenges we face as artists and citizens as we reinvent our culture with ambiguity and beauty”. It is a web of storytelling, music, playing, singing, vocal performance, video and impersonation. Anderson talks about the time of pandemics, about life changed by presence of virus, about war, isolation, lockdown, “slow-down time in music and stories”. While hearing fragments of music, voices, and sounds we see the artist against the images of disasters, vehicles, paths, Earth, river, water.... Laurie Anderson is the only one present ‘on stage’, but there are few other characters that appear in the narrative, as she borrows them her different vocals. At some point she sings with violin-voice, becoming a kind of violin-cyborg with pillow loudspeaker inserted in her mouth.
This genre-defying work in music theatre questions separation and division between the visual and acoustic stage that Heiner Goebbels talks about in his “Aesthetics of Absence”. I will discuss this division in “The River” in light of cumulative presence of ‘beyond human’ voices of machines, mechanisms, monsters, animals in our increasingly ventriloquist world. I am interested in if and why the presence of ventriloquism also illuminates the absence, but absence of whom and of what?
Period26 May 202128 May 2021
Event titleReimagining Storytelling in Music Theatre
Event typeConference
LocationKingston, Canada, OntarioShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational