In Laurie Anderson's worldview, as presented in her acclaimed multimedia work over two decades, we are not of countries and cultures. We are each citizens of our own memories.
In her one-woman show "The Speed of Darkness" on Friday at UCLA's Royce Hall, she performed laments for refugees of the Information Age whose memories have been invaded by media images--which means all of us.
"There are plenty of things you don't need to know," she said at one point, breaking from her trademark mannered storytelling delivery to sound more like a friend. "And a lot of information is not always better than no information at all."
The irony that this show--indeed, all of her art--contains a lot of information is certainly not lost on her. Images, anecdotes, parables and punch lines were fired at the speed of light Friday. A typical passage told of a Native American elder asked to sing the old hunting songs for a documentary. But he doesn't remember the words and instead sings about not remembering the words and about being filmed.
And at times it seemed that Anderson had too much to deal with herself, manipulating an array of violin, keyboard and assorted electronic devices to sculpt musical ambience and vocal effects, often underscoring a spooky quality in the monologue.
But those moments of uncertainty only added to the intimacy and immediacy of a relatively informal show that eschewed the multimedia bells and whistles of past extravaganzas. If it seemed like a toss-off to fill time until her ambitious "Songs and Stories From Moby Dick" arrives next year, it held warmth that is sometimes missing from the bigger productions.
Near the end, a computer voice intoned, "You are out of memory. Save, save now, save." For all the electronic detachment of the delivery, it was a heartfelt plea to preserve our most human quality.