Laurie Anderson, Barbican, London

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The Independent Culture

'NASA rang me on a bad day," admits Anderson at the start of The End of the Moon, her second in a trilogy of shows that began with Happiness in 2003. Would she become the space agency's first artist in residence, they inquired? Anderson hung up. "I thought some fan had figured out my secret dream and decided to torture me."

'NASA rang me on a bad day," admits Anderson at the start of The End of the Moon, her second in a trilogy of shows that began with Happiness in 2003. Would she become the space agency's first artist in residence, they inquired? Anderson hung up. "I thought some fan had figured out my secret dream and decided to torture me."

NASA do call back, and Anderson begins two years as a government agent. She visits radio telescopes and deserts where spacesuits are tested; she learns about dark energy and phantom energy and wonders about wormholes. She spends so much time looking up, her thoughts turn to what comes down from the sky.

Aerial danger features large. A vulture tries to snatch Anderson's dog while walking in Californian mountains; planes fall on New York. And so The End of the Moon becomes something never quite articulated before in Anderson's work: the end of innocence. Using electronic violin and a small sampling keyboard, the music - often huge and discordant in its tones - is harsher and manic than usual. As always, Anderson is a consummate storyteller, with a highly developed comic streak. ("Maybe life is just bad art," she says. "There's no theme; characters are always disappearing then reappearing; then they die with no particular dramatic order.") That said, there's little truly funny in the comedy of errors that she sees. "Can you tell me where I am?" she asks often. The answer, she implies, is rhetorical.

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