Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson is a performance artist. She was born in Chicago, studied art history at Barnard College in New York, and received an M.F.A. in sculpture from Columbia University. She began performing in the mid-1970s and made her first recording O, Superman in 1981. In 1986 Anderson released her concert film Home of the Brave. In 1994 she published a collection of stories The Nerve Bible, and also presented it in performance throughout the United States and Europe. Anderson is currently working on several projects-a film score, an installation that will be presented by the Musee d'Art Contemporain a Lyon in 2002 and, a pavilion in Switzerland that will open in the summer of 2002.

Selected Objects


Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806)
A Flirt, from the series Ten Studies in Female Physiognomy (Fujin sogaku juttai)
Edo period, 1791-1792
Woodblock print; ink, color and mica on paper
14 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. (37.8 x 25.1 cm); 1979.219

Flat as a butterfly, she's pinned to the paper. One of a collection of "types" or okubi-e ("big head pictures") she is meant to be a flirt from the ukiyo, the floating world of teahouses, brothels and Kabuki and puppet theaters.

Every detail flighty: her lips a little moth, her fluttering hands fiddling with her kimono with its designs of cranes and feathers; eyebrows that float on the surface of her face like leaves that have landed on a pond.

Her sensuous flesh, defined by the thinnest of lines and devoid of detail, is the color of the paper, her garments a riot of intricate design. Envisioned by an artist who loved simple rhyming lines-her shoulder and her breast; the printed feathers in her kimono and the delicate teeth of her comb. Vanity and flightiness, she turns her head.

North China
Eastern Zhou period, 4th century B.C.E.
Bronze inlaid with copper
H. 14 1/2 in. (36.8 cm), W. 13 3/4 in. (34.9 cm); 1979.104

What a pleasure to see elegance and a sense of humor in the same piece! Flask which might have been used in rituals or as an actual vessel in banquets-looks both heavy and light. Fitted with rings, it invites portability but inlaid with copper in a motif that suggests bricks and mortar, it has the stalwart character of masonry-a chunk of wall, a squat little chimney. The sturdiest of containers.

  Kuncan (1612-about 1686)
Temple on a Mountain Ledge
Qing period, dated 1661
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
33 1/2 x 19 in. (85.1 x 48.3 cm); 1979.124

A single fisherman in a vertiginous landscape. Kuncan whose pen name was Jieqiu ("Stone Daoist"), was one of the four great monk painters of the seventeenth century. In his last years he was an abbot of Yuqi one of the subtemples of the Bao'en monastery, which, most likely, is represented in this painting.

There is a story about Bodhidharma who came from India to China in the year 527 CE to transmit the dharma. As told by Zen Master Dogen who lived in the thirteenth century, Bodhidharma went to see the Emperor in the kingdom of Liang.

Emperor Wu said: "Ever since I have been emperor I have built temples, copied sutras, and approved the ordination of more monks than I can count. What is the merit of having done all this?"
Bodhidharma said: "There is no merit."
The Emperor said: "Why is that so?"
Bodhidharma said: "These are minor achievements of humans and devas, which become the causes of desire. They are like shadows and forms and are not real."
The Emperor said: "What is real merit?"
Bodhidharma said: "When pure wisdom is complete, the essence is empty and serene. Such merit cannot be attained through worldly actions."
The Emperor said: What is the foremost sacred truth?"
Bodhidharma said: "Vast emptiness. Nothing sacred."
The Emperor said: "Who is it that faces me?"
Bodhidharma said: "I don't know."

(mythical animal)
Qing period, late 18th-early 19th century

7 3/4 x 12 x 7 in. (19.7 x 30.5 x 17.8 cm); 1979.120

Made of nephrite a kind of jade found in river beds, Bixie is full of fractures that have been stained brown to simulate the dis-colorations that occur when stones have been tossed around and polished in river beds. An instant antique, a fake fossil, Bixie might have been a paper weight or a lucky charm. A wacky crossbreed of deer and lion Bixie represents fleetness and power but sits in an endearing froggy slump scratching his ancient ear.