Performance artist-pop star Laurie Anderson has put together a thinking person’s music video. It’s a bit surprising, perhaps, that Anderson, whose numerous stage works involve computers, video, film, and slides as well as music, would have only four actual music videos on her Collected Videos. But fortunately the collection, produced by Anderson, is filled out with additional material, including wry ”Personal Service Announcements” taken from her monologues (on the national debt, military research into insect locomotion, an encounter with a Playboy bunny, and the ”surrealistic masterpiece ‘Yankee Doodle”’). There are also segments featuring an interview with the high-tech sorceress in her home studio and funny bits with her ”clones,” created with trick photography to handle her press interviews so she can get some composing done.
The videos cover a decade’s work: from the ominous ”O Superman” (1981), in which she looks like a mildly malevolent sprite (reminiscent of Robert Mapplethorpe’s self-portrait with lipstick), through ”Sharkey’s Day” and ”Language Is a Virus” to ”Beautiful Red Dress,” from her last album, Strange Angels, on which she finally quit speaking her lyrics and sang them. (The last is a hoot, for we get to see the usually androgynous Anderson in a dress.) Visually, the most impressive video is ”Virus,” with planes, parachutes, and assorted consumer items floating across a huge screen behind Anderson as she plays the violin — but it seems mostly lifted from her 1986 film Home of the Brave. This 55-minute longform is impressively unified and varied, artfully combining music and video in ways that enhance both. B+