Laurie Anderson at APAP (Photo: Adam Kissick/APAP)
Laurie Anderson received the Association of Performing Arts Presenters' (APAP) Award of Merit for Achievement in the Performing Arts yesterday at the New York Hilton, and the celebrated avant-garde musican and performing artist wasted no time addressing the concerns that so many artists have with the impending changes in Washington, D.C.
"Here we are in the heart of Trump Town," said Anderson, the Hilton being only a few-minutes walk to the Trump Tower. "Some are despondent, and most are wondering what to do now."
She acknowledged that she "never imagined living in a time like this--and asking questions like this," and reflected back on a night, five years ago in mid-December, when she and her late husband Lou Reed joined an Occupy Museums demonstration at Lincoln Center, where the Metropolitan Opera was in its final performance of Philip Glass's Satyagraha.
Satyagraha was inspired by Gandhi and his concept of nonviolent resistance to injustice. The title, Anderson noted, is a Sanskrit word meaning "truth force."
"I think back on that--up the road at Lincoln Center [again, a short walk from the Hilton], and it was one of the most wonderful nights of my life."
She recalled the cold, clear night and sparkling stars--and the opera attendees exiting the Met.
"The [performance] was filled with protesters and ringed with police," Anderson said, suggesting that it was in fact a picture of "what civil disobedience looks like."
Glass, she said, expressed his support for the Occupy Wall Street movement and said, per Anderson, "When your government breaks, what do you do? Do you just sit there and sit there--or do you stand up?"
Now, said Anderson, "We're asking ourselves these questions today."
She remembered seeing police, opera-goers and Occupiers standing around in the same vicinity, and wondering, "maybe there's a way to cross-over more?" And she conceded not being sure "how to do things now—it's such a totally different situation."
"Not that I don't think art can change people--it can," she stated, expressing her wish that arts organizations will "cooperate and integrate more with each other."
She added: "In New York, we're provincial, [in] different worlds that don't intersect. I want to make those walls a lot thinner."
But she hastily recognized that "this is not a normal situation: A tweeting incompetent bully in a nearby tower loves to disparage and dismiss people. How do we relate to his bullying tactics? By very skillful means."
Ending on a determined note, Anderson concluded, "My own plan is to keep my eyes open. I'll be on a bus to Washington next week and hope to see a lot of you there."
But her "main plan," she added, is to continue to make "beautiful work."
Wearing a "Spiritual Enforcer" cap, Ben Vereen emceed the awards presentation, during which APAP president/CEO Mario Garcia Durham announced that the organization's name has been changed to Association of Performing Arts Professionals, thereby retaining the well-known APAP acronym.