Our weekly podcast includes in-depth analysis of the music we find extraordinary, exciting, and just plain terrible, along with interviews with some of our favorite artists. This week, Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel talks to boundary-breaking icons Laurie Anderson and Kim Gordon, as well as writer and editor Sinéad Gleeson, to discuss the essay anthology This Woman’s Work, which was edited by Gordon and Gleeson, and features a piece about Anderson. The interview took place in May 2022 as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival.
Listen to this week’s episode below, and follow The Pitchfork Review here. You can also check out an excerpt of the podcast’s transcript below.
Puja Patel: Laurie, how have you navigated the act of work and creating art for so long while also trying to maintain your sanity?
Laurie Anderson: I have not, at all. [laughs] It’s really hard to do. But I also don’t particularly think of this as a work. I never really did when I was starting out as a visual artist. Not one artist I knew ever thought we would make a living doing this stuff. It was not at all like the kind of professionalism that’s going on now. I was really starting out close to the ’60s with that idea of: We’re gonna dance down the road and just see what happens, and the people who are going to get jobs were idiots. [laughs] We felt sorry for them. They were just sad. So I never thought of it as work.
I also never knew who I was working for, which is a big issue when you’re thinking of work. I remember a headline from a British newspaper, something like, “Britain Loses Millions of Man Hours Due to Sickness.” And I was like, “Britain loses? You owe Britain your man hours?” So “Who are you working for?” has become more of a question for me than it used to be, because I used to just do it because I liked it. I still do it because I like it.
More recently, I’ve been thinking about work as part of our hyper-mediated culture, where every single thing you do you have to comment on: Did you like that? How much did you like it? How much do you like yourself today? You’re constantly assessing yourself in this self-made surveillance culture that we’re in. It’s exhausting. That to me is work, to be constantly reporting how well you’re doing and how well that taxi ride went. The assessment and putting things in ranks has become really out of control.
Patel: So you’re talking to the editor of Pitchfork. [laughs]
Anderson: I know. Well, I have to say one thing about press: I appreciate when I read it for other people, and I like to read about what’s going on, but my life improved one thousand percent about 10 years ago when I stopped reading absolutely anything about myself. I try to stay out of the heavily mediated world that is always grinding out opinion, even though I really appreciate good writing; the worst review I ever got, which was about around the time I stopped reading these books, was the best-written one. So I wrote to this journalist. I said, “You are wasting your time doing this stuff. Write a novel.” Five years later, I got a novel in the mail from this guy—and it was really, really good.