The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts

Pillow Talk

Laurie Anderson

It’s not every commencement speaker who can deliver a rousing address and invent a musical instrument on the same occasion, but such was the case at the College’s graduation event on May 10, 2012, when students, parents and invited guests heard from groundbreaking multimedia artist–and former NASA artist-in-residence–Laurie Anderson. Anderson has been at the forefront of New York’s avant-garde scene for some four decades, shifting among performance, music and video. She now joins the ranks of playwright Edward Albee and New York Times columnist Frank Rich as a recipient of an honorary SVA degree, and media outlets from New York Magazine to BoingBoing took note.

In one piece of advice that was widely quoted on Twitter, Anderson told graduates:

No one will ever ask you to do the thing you really want to do. You’ve got to take my word on this. Do not, do not wait for this to happen. It will never happen. Things will happen to you but this will never happen. So just think of what you’d like to do; what you dream of doing; and then just start doing it.

Video of the performance that capped off Anderson’s speech was posted on the Huffington Post, with the explanation, “Using technology in a way it was never intended and turning it into music is kind of what she does best, so when she sticks a pillow speaker in her mouth while wearing a cap and gown, you know something amazing is about to happen.”