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Lions Roar : July 2014
Laurie Anderson: When you move through your life, you have your schtick about who are you. You have your stories. So I had my style and people would say, “That’s your style,” but your style is a trap. I thought, I’m an experimental artist. I should experiment. So I put myself in situations where I didn’t know what to say, what to do, who to be. I did things like work on an Amish farm and at McDonald’s. I just did a bunch of things that were really awkward for me. Daniel Gilbert: I’m still stuck on the moment you walk into a McDonald’s and go, “Hi, can I get an application?” Laurie Anderson: It’s easy to work at McDonald’s. I just said I’d done various things in my life. They didn’t ask questions. People don’t really care what you do. In fact, a lot of young artists ask me, “How could I dare call myself an artist? What would people think?” I have to tell you that people care as much about what you do as you care about what they do. Not a lot. It’s not going to rock your world if someone else calls themselves an artist. So knock yourself out! It’s a question of freedom. You prevent yourself from being free by this little defense of, “Gee, what would people say?” Is art surprise? In certain ways, for me, it is. I like art that turns something upside down. I spent a lot of my childhood in my fort in the woods, smoking oak-leaf cigarettes and thinking of scenarios that had never happened. Just weird little stories like a goose has a heart attack and falls on a man’s head. That has never happened in the history of the world, and for some reason it’s satisfying to think of something that has never been. That’s a childish example but there’s something about the surprise of making something. It’s godlike. Daniel Gilbert: Building reality—that’s what artists do. But that’s also what everybody does. Every time we think about our own future, we’re using imagination to create scenarios: If I marry Amanda or study the violin or move to New York, here’s what will happen, here’s how I’ll feel... This is really the thing that sets us apart from every other species on this planet. “Be here now” is easy for a mouse. A Question of Freedom Artist/musician Laurie Anderson & Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness Left: Fifteenth-century Tibetan statue of Padmasambhava, the legendary figure credited with bringing Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet. photo:michaelpalma