Arts & Culture · Fine Art · Music

Björk at the Museum of Modern Art: Come Fall in Love

7. biophilia moma_bjork_biophilia_large Björk, Biophilia, 2011. Credit: By M/M (Paris) Photographed by Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin. Image courtesy of Wellhart Ltd & One Little Indian

Missing from the show is lot of important information that probably should have been presented in Songlines. To take just one example, Biophilia was a huge multimedia project that Björk worked on from 2008 to 2011. She was having trouble with her voice at the time and decided to explore new ways of working. She was also becoming increasingly involved in political activities surrounding environmental issues in Iceland. The album, written during the Icelandic financial crisis, explores connections between nature, music, and technology. It was released with a series of 10 apps inside a main app, one for each song on the album, and it is considered the first app album ever created. The apps explore different ideas in musicology; they were developed to teach people about music, science, and nature. When it first came out, Biophilia was used in museum and library workshops in New York City and around the world.

It would have been helpful if all of the following—the four instruments made for Biophilia (a “gameleste,” a pipe organ, a gravity harp, and the Tesla coil) and their animated screens (currently placed in the museum lobby), the apps (currently on display in the Architecture and Design Galleries), the four music videos: Hollow, directed by Drew Berry; Moon, directed by Inez & Vinoodh and M/M Paris; Core, directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, and Crystalline, directed by Michel Gondry (currently shown in the music video screening room), the original written score, and the royal blue plastic Biophilia tour dress designed by Iris Van Herpen (both currently in Songlines)—had been displayed in the same area together, with a description of the projects.

Besides the lack of information in Songlines, several of Björk’s big projects are not presented there at all. There is no music from the soundtrack for Drawing Restraint 9 (2005). And, while the video from Dancer in the Dark (2000) is shown in the music video screening room, there is no mention of it in Songlines. More surprising, Björk’s newly released album Vulnicura (2015) is not included in Songlines, even though there is a new music video for “Lionsong” from Vulnicura in the music video screening room, and the video installation Black Lake is on view in the Marron Atrium.

8 stonemilker_still.0001_mm45 copy Björk. Still from Stonemilker. 2015. Courtesy Wellhart Ltd & One Little Indian

In addition to what’s on view at MOMA, Björk’s video installation for her song “Stonemilker,” from the new album Vulnicura, is being shown for the first time at MOMA PS1. This is Björk’s first project using Virtual Reality, and, like the music video for “Black Lake,” Andrew Thomas Huang directed it. The video is a 360-degree panorama recorded in three dimensions on a beach in Iceland. Visitors put on VR headsets and headphones and become part of the seven-minute-long video installation. In the video, Björk is wearing a flowing pale yellow dress. She turns around and around as she sings about the difficulties in her marriage in a way that is both raw and confrontational. I was fascinated by the intimacy of the experience, and Stonemilker was my favorite part of Björk. There are plans to show Stonemilker at Rough Trade stores in Brooklyn and London sometime in the near future.

Go and see the Björk show at MOMA, and don’t forget the Stonemilker video installation at MOMA PS1. If you are interested in apps or music composition, check out the apps from Biophilia in the Architecture and Design Galleries on the third floor. If you have read this review, you should have enough information to enjoy the show. But before you visit Songlines, spend as much time as possible watching Björk’s music videos online or in MOMA’s video screening room.

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  • animals April 14, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Yes! Finally someone writes about pet.

  • Suzanne April 26, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    Dear Grace, Thank you for your lovely comment! You should try to make it to PS1 and see Stonemilker, if you haven’t already seen it. One thing that I love about Björk is that aging doesn’t seem to inhibit her in any way. Like you, she seems freed by it. Thanks again! Suzanne

  • grace graupe-pillard April 26, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Suzanne – you did a wonderful job with this review. I am one of the few people who was not convinced by the negative criticism to stay away from the exhibition – and I was so happy to have seen this show which was enchanting – particularly the Songlines. With the earphones on – i was in Bjork’s world and nothing outside could bother me. Her voice pierces me.