Take A Walk On The Meditative Side
We live a world where we’re constantly bombarded with relentless information and stimulation resulting in perpetual subliminal or overt stress. We’re digitally wired/wifi’d out binary individuals, constantly seeking affirmation of our existence on various strata of social media, the daily quota of ‘Likes’ nourishing our childish egos ‘I tweet, therefore I am’. It’s almost as if it’s a deliberate LED screen distraction from the other equally as important part of human existence, our death.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the ‘The Heart Of A Dog’ (2015) the latest documentary from performance artist, artist, musician, composer, director and woman of extraordinary and profound talents Laurie Anderson, but it in the most wonderful way it wasn’t what I expected. She also happened to have equally profoundly talented creative, musician Lou Reed as her partner and husband for many years up until his passing in 2013.
The documentary starts out with a hypnotic and surreal tale illustrated in an equally dreamy artwork and meditative relaxed voice over from Laurie herself, introducing her ‘dream body’ for the explorative personal historical journey ahead. It feels like what would be a momentary illustrative segue in another doc, but it slowly becomes apparent that this trippiness is the format and beautifully loquacious gentle flow of the entire film. At first I found my overstimulated brain fighting back screaming for MORE, MORE, FASTER, FASTER but after a while I slowly dropped down many gears to the Buddhist chill that the movie radiates out like a cosmic rgb Karma. Being that Laurie and Lou were practicing Buddhist’s for many years, it effectively becomes a beautiful guidance for how to deal with the elephant (or dog) in the room of our existence, our mortality.
Over the meandering stream/sea of consciousness, the movie ebbs and flows as we stop off at many ports of her memories, regaling sea shanty and barnacle encrusted recollections of thoughts long subsided into the waves of history. If there is any continuity to what seems to be initial randomness it is the concept of death, and how we deal with it. From Laurie’s beloved rat terrier dog Lolabelle to 9/11, from her mother to her partner Lou. It may sound like a downer, but clearly Buddhism doesn’t allow for that, instead it explains and gives reason and an explanation to it. Even for my fundamentally atheist brain, it is a wonderfully thoughtful, gentle and peaceful approach to such a finite moment.
It’s not in the slightest bit bleak either, Regardless of some heavy duty topics such as the militarisation of New York immediately (& perpetually) after 9/11, or the negative effects parents can have on their children, Laurie brings a wonderfully endearing wry wit and surrealness to alot of her observations, and of course there’s always the piano playing blind dog Lolabelle to bring up the tempo, when she’s not busy doing some paintings inbetween piano recitals.
The peacefully reflective qualities of the work continue in the soothing poetic cadence of Laurie’s voice, which is so relaxing that you can’t but help to softly and slowly drift off into her memories, aided with binaural beats, rhythms, sampled loops and an equally creative serenity to the visuals the work has profound meditative qualities. This is to it’s complete credit, assurance and peace in conviction to it’s objective which it’s entirely successful with, though it won’t be for everyone, particularly for those addicted to the speed of NOW! NOW! MORE! MORE!
Peppered with extremely fascinating quotes from various Buddhist teachers and renowned philosophers throughout the ages, the work becomes a fascinating presentation on a very considered approach to existence. There’s no pontificating that this is The Way, just A Way which again just adds to the pleasure of the piece. There’s also some fascinating nuggets about Laurie’s childhood to the extent she might be consdiered to be a Superhero.
Despite all the cackle, crackle and white noise of the digital saccharine we mainline on a daily basis that brings no genuine respite, it’s the phenomenally quiet works such as The Heart Of A Dog’ that will satiate or true longings. Initially potentially difficult to relax our monkey brains into absorbing, but when you do it’s an idiosyncratic delight, that just gets better and better with every viewing. There’s some really lovely interview with Laurie as extras on the DVD too, but of course watch them after experiencing the odyssey.
‘The Heart Of A Dog’ is out now on DVD and available to stream on iTunes.