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Instruments Created by Art and Technology Trailblazer Laurie Anderson on Display at Moss Arts Center

Artist Laurie Anderson plays her musical invention “Tape Bow Violin” (1977), which will be featured in an upcoming Moss Arts Center exhibition. Image courtesy of the artist.

An avant-garde performance artist, celebrated composer and musician, and 1980s pop music star, Laurie Anderson is known for pushing artistic boundaries and being a leader in the use and critique of technology in the arts. A new exhibition at the Moss Arts Center showcases some of the key creative tools developed by the artist during her storied career.

Invented Instruments” features a selection of the artist’s invented musical instruments and unusual musical scores, marking the first exhibition devoted exclusively to these history-making pieces.

On display in the Ruth C. Horton Gallery, the exhibition will open with a reception on Thursday, April 26, from 5-7 p.m. in the Grand Lobby of the Moss Arts Center, located at 190 Alumni Mall. The evening will also feature remarks from Kevin Concannon, director of the School of Visual Arts in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies and curator of “Invented Instruments.”

The Moss Arts Center’s galleries and all related events are free and open to the public.

The exhibition features a selection of Anderson’s invented and reconstructed instruments, including her “Tape Bow Violin” (1977). With pre-recorded magnetic tape on the bow and a tape recorder playback head on the violin’s body, the instrument allows Anderson to “remix” human speech by dragging the tape over the playback head to create new phrases and languages. Among the tape samples she’s used are car crashes, saxophones, and even “audio palindromes,” words and phrases that create different words forwards and backwards.

Anderson’s performance scores will also be featured, in addition to drawings, photographs, and video clips of these remarkable instruments in action.

Initially trained in violin and sculpture, Anderson’s work spans performance art, visual art, and multimedia projects. Anderson achieved crossover status within the world of pop music in 1981 with the release of the beautiful and quirky single, and accompanying music video, “O Superman (for Massenet).” Her work as a performance artist has been presented around the world, and her visual art has been presented in major museums throughout North and South America and Europe.

The exhibition is coordinated and implemented by the Moss Art Center’s curatorial team, directed by Margo Ann Crutchfield, curator at large.

“Invented Instruments” is part of a suite of exhibitions highlighting various aspects of the art of sound. Opening on May 17, “Soundscapes” features five leading figures in experimental music and multi-channel sound works. “ICAT: Open (at the) Source” includes three interdisciplinary sound-based projects created by Virginia Tech researchers and opens on April 30. These exhibitions will coincide with the 2018 international conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME), which will be held at Virginia Tech on June 3-6.

The Moss Arts Center’s galleries are regularly open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

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