Saturday, August 18, 2012

Laurie Anderson, "O Superman"


Video of a 1981 performance by experimental sound artist Laurie Anderson. It's not exactly "not safe for work," but your co-workers will think you are a freak if they walk in on you watching this. It's difficult to describe this video; Laurie Anderson is a young-ish thin white woman with her short hair spiked out, wearing a man's suit and standing on a darkened stage behind a synth keyboard. A small spotlight shines on a screen behind her making a shadow of her arm, which she holds out. She speaks through a device that makes her voice sound like a chorus of robots and plays a simple background on the keyboard. She delivers what is part spoken word and part song while doing a shadow puppet show.

"O superman, O Judge, O Mom and Dad! O Superman, O Judge, O Mom and Dad! Hi! I'm not home right now. But if you want to leave a message, just start talking at the sound of the tone. Hello? This is your mother. Are you there? Are you coming home? Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don't know me. But I know you. And I've got a message to give to you: Here come the planes, so you'd better get ready, ready to go. You can come as you are, pay as you go, pay as you go. [break in speaking, a flute-ish sound plays] And I said ok, who is this really? And the voice said, "This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the hand, the hand that takes. Here come the planes. They're American planes, made in America. Smoking or non-smoking? And the voice said, "Neither snow nor wind nor blue light shall stay these couriers from swift completion, from their appointed rounds. Cause when love is gone, there's always Justice. And when Justice is gone, there's always Force. And when Force is gone, there's always Mom, hi Mom! [break in speaking] So hold me Mom, in your long arms. So hold me Mom, in your long arms, in your automatic arms, your electronic arms, in your arms. So hold me, Mom, in your long arms, your petrochemical arms, your military arms [birds chirp] in your electronic arms. [synth and sax buildup]"

Alternately the spotlight becomes an animated circle and rotating planet Earth. Anderson also appears in the corner doing what could be sign language and also appears to do hand signals for an airport runway. There are several close-ups of her face, which she holds perfectly still and mechanically. She speaks the words very slowly.

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