Why Lou Reed ended up a highlight of Dark Mofo 2018
Laurie Anderson wasn’t in Hobart when I went and saw her Chalkroom installation at Hobart’s Domain House as a part of Dark Mofo 2018.
Lou Reed, the inspiration and initial instigator of Lou Reed Drones, has been dead for almost five years.
But they both played an enormous part in the best experience on offer at Dark Mofo in 2018.
Anderson’s Chalkroom, a collaboration with Taiwanese mixed media artist Hsin-Chien Huang, allows us to fly through a dark world made up of letters, words and drawings. It allows us to entirely disconnect from our very existence and live out a childlike fantasy of flying around a wondrous, albeit bleak and deserted, world.
Anderson’s voice guides you through your journey, a journey which is of your own making. You choose where you fly, you choose how you interact with the word art, and you choose whether the experience is all a bit too much.
I know Chalkroom isn’t the first VR experience like this. And I’m sure it’s probably not even the best one around. But something about it felt liberating and enriching. Art is important, art is beautiful, art is thought provoking, but art is rarely this much fun.
Upstairs at Domain House, Lou Reed’s guitar tech Stewart Hurwood stands in a room with a selection of Reed’s guitar and amplifiers. He makes deep, dark, droning guitar noise, sends it through loop pedals and blasts it through the amps.
You enter the room, put in earplugs, and immerse yourself in the glorious noise.
I lay on a beanbag, closed my eyes, and felt the drone pulse through my body. I might have been there half an hour, it might have been more, but I emerged completely refreshed.
"The drones for me are a musical expression but it is also an experiment," Stewart Hurwood told Double J's Tim Shiel. "I did eight hours yesterday and I still feel it in my body. Much like if you go to sea and you’re on a boat, and then you come back to land you still feel like you’re in a boat. I still feel a slight buzzing and resonance in my body.
"Nikola Tesla said if you want to understand the universe you should understand three things: energy, frequency and resonance. And what I am dealing with massively, with the guitar drones, is those three things.
"Before I came to Dark Mofo, with all the performances since Lou’s death I had 92 hours of exposure to guitar feedback. I’m going to do 102 hours here. So I’m now elevated from a drone operator to a drone wizard."
These two installations couldn’t be more different, but they also couldn’t be a better pairing. Chalkroom forces you to live outside of your own body, Lou Reed Drones forces you to do the complete opposite, to notice every twitch of your body, every heartbeat, every muscle, every breath. Together, they act like a like a day spa for your consciousness.
"I've had people burst into tears with euphoria, they became overwhelmed by it," Hurwood said.
I didn’t feel the spirit of Lou Reed in that building, but, when I stepped out into the gloomy, brisk Hobart afternoon, I did feel like a different person.