VENICE (Reuters) - Laurie Anderson has never been conventional, so it is no surprise her film "Heart of a Dog" touches on the loss of both her rat terrier Lolabelle and her husband Lou Reed.
The U.S. musician and performance artist, whose work over the decades included the global pop hit "O Superman" and the post of artist in residence for the U.S. space agency NASA, said animals and humans were kindred spirits in eastern religions.
Anderson, 68, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday that she did not make the film, which is competing for the top Venice Film Festival prize, as therapy for the loss of two important spirits in her life.
Instead, she hopes people who see it will learn to face death with open eyes.
Americans, she said, tend to deal with death "and war and a lot of other things just in the most remote way you can possibly think, the most hands-off way".
By contrast the rock musician Reed had always been a "fierce" artist, Anderson said.
"I still learn things every day about what he did, people tell me what he said and what he did and I think about it," she said
"You can imagine if you've lost your partner how that is," she added. "Fill in the blanks."
She said Lolabelle, too, had shown the ability to learn and deal with change, as she became blind in the last few years of her life.
Rather than have the dog put to sleep, as a veterinarian suggested, Anderson found a trainer who taught Lolabelle how to play a keyboard and paint, after a fashion.
Once, when Anderson was hiking with the dog in California, a hawk swooped down to attack Lolabelle but then backed off.
For the remainder of her life, Lolabelle was wary of being attacked from above, said Anderson, just as the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks forced New Yorkers to think about what might come from the sky.
"For New Yorkers certainly it has become something that is very attached to fear instead of freedom," she said.
Editing by Andrew Roche