Bjork on Display, Up Close and in 3-D ; an Immersive Landscape at MoMA Flows through 20 Years of Her Career

By Ryzik, Melena | International New York Times, March 4, 2015 | Go to article overview

Bjork on Display, Up Close and in 3-D ; an Immersive Landscape at MoMA Flows through 20 Years of Her Career


Ryzik, Melena, International New York Times


The exhibition, which opens to the public on Sunday, is an immersive sonic and visual landscape, covering more than 20 years of her career.

At the Museum of Modern Art on Sunday afternoon, Bjork was seemingly everywhere. An artist known as Shoplifter sewed strands of hair onto Bjork's face. Around the corner, a textile conservator restrung pearls onto a topless wedding gown by Alexander McQueen, which was also worn by Bjork. Nearby, Bjork's crystal-encrusted face floated in midair. A miniature Bjork was on her way.

This Bjork army was made up of mannequins, 3-D-scanned from her body, capturing her fierce and delicate features. Posed on the third floor of MoMA, the mannequins were being primped for a preview of the museum's retrospective of her work, opening to the public next Sunday. The show is an immersive sonic and visual landscape, covering more than 20 years of her career. With music, video, fashion and technology all playing a part, the show is among the museum's largest and most technically involved installations. "She's literally worked with all the departments" in the museum for the exhibit, said Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA's curator at large who helped conceive of the show.

After three years in development, the show's details were still coming together this week. In the museum's atrium, a newly constructed two-story structure was flooded with designers, carpenters, curators and audio- and video-makers. The beak of the infamous swan dress Bjork wore to the 2001 Oscars had been refluffed; the yak head from the 3-D video for "Wanderlust" was fumigated. For "Black Lake," a MoMA-commissioned video installation for the emotional, 10-minute song off Bjork's latest record, "Vulnicura," 6,000 soundproofing cones were meticulously hand- stitched in felt, and technicians spent hours mixing the song for the space, with Bjork's oversight.

Wrapped up in finishing the show, Bjork had been elusive. On Friday, she tromped through in an electric-blue dress and some hybrid hiking boot/high tops that only she could pull off. The exhibition is at once highly personal -- her handwriting announces the display, and her diaries, starting from age 9, will be on view - - and evocative of her collaborative style. Bjork's vision pulses through, and so does those of her friends'.

The fashion designer Hussein Chalayan lent the Tyvek dress she wore on the cover of her 1995 album "Post." Antony, of Antony and the Johnsons, recorded vocal prompts for the audio guide, which is also narrated by Margret Vilhjalmsdottir, an Icelandic actress whom Bjork has known since they worked in a Reykjavik secondhand shop as teenagers.

Mr. Biesenbach, who like Bjork is 49, called her the paradigm of a '90s artist, a compliment. "The '90s, my generation, said it's all about relational aesthetics, it's all about collaboration," he said. Many tried to cross over to art, film and design; "she lives that." A centerpiece of the exhibition is "Songlines," a labyrinthlike audio tour through Bjork's music and psyche. Visitors wear headphones connected to Bluetooth beacons, which locate them through the space, cuing the proper songs and visuals. The technology was adapted by Volkswagen, a sponsor of the show, from a hands-free program it made to soundtrack driving. …

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