Laurie Anderson / The Record of the Time

Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin

Anderson hacks technologies and spaces, making things and places do things that they weren’t designed to do. She playfully reappropriates media, lending it a performative drama. It’s a cut-up tactic purloined from William Burroughs, a mentor who plays a cameo role in a number of Andersons’ works, including The Voice of Authority (1986) a hanging receiver that transmits Burroughs’ dulcet tones and the epic performance Home of the Brave (1986). Anderson’s modified violins, once the cutting edge of sampling technology and multimedia art, now look poignantly archaic. Neon Bow (1980) has a neon strip attached to it, transforming it into a DIY light sabre, an icon of its era. In Audio Glasses (1979) Anderson wears enormous Yoko Ono sunglasses miked up to amplify the sound of her fist tapping on her head, resulting in what looks like a retrofuturist paracetemol ad. The most striking thing about this retrospective is the datedness of everything. Here lies the work’s captivating contemporaneity. Only an art that is truly of its time can look so old so quickly. Anderson was always of the moment, from the time-based performances in the 1970s such as Duets on Ice (1975) and the Institutional Dream Series (1972-3), to her transfiguration into the eighties new wave star of pop promos Sharkey’s Day (1984) and Beautiful Red Dress (1989). The 70s work resonates with that of Minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and fellow performance artists concerned with endurance and testing the limitations of the body. The 80s videos are more at home in a high postmodern culture wherein conceptualism briefly found airtime on MTV, echoing the art-music-performance hybridity of Talking Heads and Grace Jones.