When I started listening to Laurie Anderson's 1982 album Big Science, I would only listen to it on repeat, in chronological order of the track listing. It made me feel safe. It calmed me, immensely. I consider it a familiar comfort now.
At the time of its release, my mother was at MIT finishing undergrad in chemical engineering; the year after that she'd graduate again from MIT with her Master's. Chemical engineering. I ask her if she ever listened to Laurie Anderson, technologist forward artist inventor avant-garde experiment result.
"Who?" she asks. "Seems like it was all Madonna and Pretenders back then."
I am watching a clip of Charlie Rose interview Laurie Anderson from 2004, a year after she hooked herself up with a French radio-commissioned microphone from July 4 through October. She recorded each day when she was performing around Italy, when she was the first artist-in-residence for NASA, when she and then-partner Lou Reed (they'd marry five years later) toured to the other side of the world, flying back to Manhattan again and again for dinners and a dog wash. The data became Nothing in My Pockets: A Diary (2009). Heavily edited, parsed down from a tree of unimaginable girth grown all those months as she continuously picked up pixels and frequencies and static and non-moments, technological slip-ups and silence. Photos of herself showing herself snapping a photo from her iPhone. Reduced to memorable splinters both photographic and textual but bare and collaged, the end piece is a slim volume accompanied by two CDs, the French radio broadcast of Laurie Anderson's microphone portrait, diary.
Charlie Rose is talking to her, asking her questions. He is simultaneously making sounds and making inferences. She is responding in a purring mumble that sounds like echo. They overlap each other like dissonant chords. Maybe they are two cameras cut together from different takes. Two songs playing without a composer.
I turn on closed captioning.
I am turned on.
The scrolling transcript excites me and I feel I have found their true performance, Charles and Laura.
Does automated closed captioning automatically orchestrate irony in art?
"the more you work with
technology more stupid you
realize it is
you get these really weird
question people like how does it
feel now the technology is
caught up with you
when is this a trade show I
never thought of when I was
working with in terms of
you know you don't think there
is anything other than
wanna the tool to yeah
like your voice like your face
to learn face the brain
yes where you're a isn't again
to pay my head and only employed
to work for you to work for you
you make it work for I'm trying
to sink a
not working you know tanker like
what is not working well was hit
by my with that is it will mean
so much what people call work I
don't think it worked for them
you know what I'm Mike what I
what would I do which will be
defined as workers network"
She tells Charlie, in closed captioning, about her project for "French radio with French radio."
She tells Charlie, cc, "when you're doing a diary have," she says, "no idea what's going on happened," she says, "now so there's no plot," she says, "like your life you know you know," she says, "test there's no dramatic order," she says, "to," she says, "life just happens sofa it's," she says, "kinda like a walk and so on," she says, "finished it will I'm just walked."