Laurie Anderson, The end of the moon y landfall

With the folks at NASA, Anderson toured the Hubble Space Telescope and met astronauts and nanotechnologists, ultimately producing a poem called The End of the Moon, which she recited between violin interludes. Formally and conceptually grappling with colossal forces of the unknown.

Starting last month and running until January 2019, the country’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art features Anderson’s new moon-themed virtual reality project as part of its exhibition The Moon: From Inner Worlds to Outer Space.

Created with multimedia artist Hsin-Chien Huang—with whom Anderson collaborated on another beautiful VR experience last year—this project transports visitors to a virtual moon, where they can view constellations invented by Anderson, symbols of things that have, or that seem poised to, disappear: a dinosaur, a polar bear, democracy. “All of those things that you think are so stable are so fragile, and can be lost,” she says in the video introduction to her project above.

So, okay, it’s not the moon Armstrong and Aldrin planted their country’s flag on in 1969. It’s also populated by dinosaurs, birds, and other creatures created from a latticework of DNA molecules.

Not only did Anderson and Huang depict a thrilling fantasy VR moon, but they also created a “’hideous’ version,” reports CNN, “in which people had dumped all the radioactive material from Earth. “We did different phases of the moon,” says Anderson, “different aspects, looked not just at the romanticism of the moon but dystopias.” This isn’t her first foray into moon-themed art. As artist-in-residence at NASA since 2003, she has had some time to reflect on the agency’s mission.

After her first year with NASA, she debuted a 90-minute performance piece called “The End of the Moon,” the second in a trilogy she described as an “epic poem” about contemporary American culture. She is not the obvious choice to work for a government agency. Her work has been fiercely critical of the country’s wars and its repression on the domestic front. “Frankly, I find living in American culture at the moment really problematic,” she said back in 2004. “But when I think of NASA, it’s the one thing that feels future-oriented in a way that’s inspiring.”


Composed by Anderson and featuring her spoken word, Landfall is a cycle of songs that observe the devastating wake of Hurricane Sandy through her eyes. Also with Kronos Quartet.

Landfall seems to synthesize many of the concerns of Anderson’s life: language, technology, America’s gargantuan cons. And it all coalesces on “Nothing Left but Their Names,” an astounding nine-and-a-half-minute monologue in Anderson’s classic down-pitched vocal style. She catalogues extinct species such as spotted lizards, mastodons, and many kinds of sloths. Her meditation wanders through the imaginative power of words, how they can be superior to experience itself. But Anderson ends, profoundly, on the moon and the stars. “You know the reason that I really love the stars?” Anderson asks. “It’s that we cannot hurt them. 


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