Laurie Anderson’s New Reality

Guild Hall's exhibition will open on Saturday
An installation view of Laurie Anderson’s “Chalkroom,” one of two virtual reality pieces that will open Saturday at Guild Hall Canal Street Communications

For more than four decades, Laurie Anderson has defied categorization, extending the traditional boundaries of what constitutes an artist’s body of work. Hers includes performance, film, music, video, writing, drawings, prints, often in various combinations, and, most recently, virtual reality. 

Guild Hall will sample Ms. Anderson’s output in an exhibition opening on Saturday that will include videos of performances from throughout her career, “Lolabelle in the Bardo,” a series of large-scale drawings generated by the death of her dog in 2011, and two virtual reality pieces, “Chalkroom” and “Aloft.” The artist will also present “All the Things I Lost in the Flood,” a reading and performance, on July 14.

Virtual reality is a new medium for Ms. Anderson, who collaborated with Hsin-Chien Huang, a new-media creator, to develop “Chalkroom,” which was named the best virtual reality experience at last summer’s 74th Venice International Film Festival.

Describing “Chalkroom” in a YouTube video made for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, Ms. Anderson said, “It’s made of words and stories, and it’s a big kind of edifice, covered with language and drawings. . . . You begin slowly moving into this world of ramps and hallways and it opens out to huge towers, and they’re all covered with language. Sometimes letters float toward you, and, like snow, they’re there to define the space and show you a little about what it is.”

“Mainly, you can fly, that was my main inspiration to do this, like in your dreams. And that takes a little practice. It needs a little bit of time to get your balance in that world. . . . It’s a very isolated experience, it’s not like a film or a concert.”

“Aloft” gives the sensation of being in an airplane that comes apart. Participants find themselves suspended in air with all the components of the plane floating around them as they enter a blue abyss. Both virtual reality pieces are experienced with goggles and headsets, and participation will be limited to those who register in advance for the devices on Guild Hall’s website. 

Ms. Anderson was an accomplished violinist as a child, and she earned an M.F.A. in sculpture from Columbia University in 1972. One of her performances from the 1970s, “Duets on Ice,” combined her background as a musician with elements of process art then current in New York City and established her among the leading artists of her generation. 

For that performance, Ms. Anderson played a violin along with a recording while wearing skates whose blades were encased in ice. She replaced the bow hair with prerecorded audiotape and placed a magnetic tape head in the bridge. The piece ended when the ice melted.

The first of her seven Warner Brothers albums, “Big Science,” included the song “O Superman,” which rose to number two on the British pop charts. Among her best-known performances are “United States I-V” (1983), “Empty Places” (1990), “The Nerve Bible” (1995), and “Songs and Stories for Moby Dick,” a multimedia stage performance that toured internationally throughout 1999 and 2000.

Ms. Anderson divides her time between New York City and Springs. A members-only reception open to those who R.S.V.P. in advance will take place on Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m., and the exhibition will remain on view through July 22.