The content of Anderson’s work draws on experiences from her cosmopolitan life, which she processes humorously and allegorically by reflecting herself in her environment. Her subjects are political and social topics, particularly criticism of social hierarchies which she questions in relation to gender roles.
Automatic progress and the computer technology which grows out of this have fed the techno avant-garde since the industrialized modern period with visions of man and machine becoming one. The brutal belief in progress of this cyberneticist is challenged by Anderson through disclosures of the vulnerability of this technological ideal. As a media artist who is able to fuse the interface between art and science in an experienced manner, she pleads for a consistently human reception of new technological possibilities and refers to the unconditional necessity of man in a techno utopia.
Her installation Headphone Table from 1978 is a participative sculpture with a specific sound experience that involves the body of the person viewing it. Sound waves are transmitted via the forearm bones and the palms of the hands into the ear by means of two transfer surfaces, which are embedded at the head end of each table. Laurie Anderson thus refers to the resonating body of the human skeleton the importance of which is all too often overlooked in the reception of sound. Music recordings can be heard at both ends of the table, one vocal, i.e., human voices, and one instrumental.
The Chalkroom (2017), a project realized with the Chinese media artist Hsin-Chien Huang by Anderson in 2017, is a virtual animation, that makes it possible to explore a parallel linguistic, visual and sound reality. This is also where Anderson’s pictorial skills come into play; the black and white drawings correspond to the style of her painting.
In her early days, Laurie Anderson was in contact with iconic artists of New Music such as John Cage or Philipp Glass, but did not directly follow their avant-garde approaches. As part of her fundamental examination of techno developments and utopias and their trans-human promises, she first turns to an engagement with the instruments as tools of the musician and questions their possibilities against the current background. This leads her to the invention of the viophonograph, a violin which she technically updated by mounting an electronic pickup head on the bridge and installing a recording device inside. The violin bow is a specially recorded magnetic tape that plays forward and in reverse as it is bowed.