Where oh where to start when talking to Laurie Anderson? A performance artist, musician, actress, filmmaker, first NASA artist-in-residence, and all around great soul, she was in San Francisco to talk about her new film, HEART OF A DOG, a film that uses her dog Lola Belle’s life and death as a touchstone for a plethora of stories about love, loss, and learning to feel sad without being sad. It’s a concept that she learned from her teacher, Mingyur Rinpoche, and one of the things I wanted her to talk about was how she and her late husband, Lou Reed, found him. Then I wanted to know what their first question to him was.
We also talked about how music ended up in her film, revisiting memories courtesy of a box of old home-movies her brother sent her, the complicated relationship with truth, the energy of opposition, the success of failure, going to Mars, and whether or not we are our brains. What I loved most about that last topic was that Anderson, true to form, refused to be bound by the tyranny of dualism.
THE HEART OF A DOG is her cinematic essay on mortality, memory, and love. Using home movies from her childhood, more contemporary clips, animation, and a rhapsodically poetic way with words, Anderson uses highlights from her life, and that of the life and death of her beloved rat terrier, Lola Belle, to move fluidly backwards and forwards in both time and space, as she muses on the death of loved ones, unexpected intimations of mortality, and learning to feel sadness without being sad. Anderson’s considerable body of work as a musician, performance artist, and filmmaker includes the song “O Superman”, a multimedia stage version of “Moby Dick,” and the film, HOME OF THE BRAVE.