Laurie Anderson's new show at BAM is a moving exploration of loss and renewal.
Once again, audiences are treated to Anderson's familiar floating soundscape of violin chords, digital technology, and, in this case, viola and horns from musicians Eyvind Kang and Colin Stetson. The artist's own soothing voice is also filtered now and then through a vocal processor to produce her famous male alter ego.
Unlike Anderson's more mainstream successes from the 1980s -- the quirky and comic concert film Home of the Brave or the New Wave hit single, "O Superman" -- Delusion takes on a strikingly private, ruminative tone. It opens with candle-like pinpoints of orange light placed around the stage as though this were a vigil. Two larger beams of light illuminate empty spots upstage as Anderson describes a clock that's pointing to "a new kind of north" and asks, "Which way do we go?"
It's not just a personal question; it's a question for this country as well. A beautiful video image (one of many by Amy Khoshbin) shows a blackboard with certain words and sketches scrawled on it and run in a loop, as though she -- and we -- are stuck with certain thoughts in our head and are trying to work through our own dreams and delusions to find a new way of thinking. For example, "what is a man if he outlives the lifetime of his God?" she asks, repeating a quote from Melville that was also the focus of her 1999 performance piece, Songs and Stories from Moby Dick.
What seems to be less charted territory for her are the passages in which she works through her very complicated feelings for her mother, who passed away recently. Not all of the dreams and memories she describes are equally interesting. But some are quite stirring, as when she recounts the final words that emerged from her mother's confused mind and when she reflects on the different deaths each of us experience, from the moment our heart stops beating to the last time someone utters our name. "I was thinking of you," she says to her lost mother, "and then I was thinking of you again and then I wasn't thinking of you anymore."