Björk Digital showcases the fruits of embracing collaboration and creative technologies
- Jamie Green
- 1 September 2016
Famous foremost for her music, the stripped-down and intimate exhibition Björk Digital showcases the eponymous Icelandic artist’s latest digital output, working across virtual reality, audiovisual installation and interactive touchscreen instrumentation. Acting as a creative director embracing collaboration and technology as a means of innovation, Björk augments her organic musicology on what she calls “the universal, 10,000 year old theme — probably older” of heartbreak.
Filmed against a crepuscular Icelandic beach Stonemilker is a one-on-one 360˚ experience viewed through one of the exhibition’s headsets, inviting you to follow Björk she dances around you on the sand and croons the sweet, melancholy song looking directly into your eyes. While Mouth Mantra, conceived and filmed by Jesse Kanda with a tiny camera in Björk’s mouth, ensnares the viewer as her tongue, throat and teeth warp mesmerically around you.
Björk’s work utilises the most cutting-edge of technologies to seamless blend its visuals and music, delivered by luxury audio brand Bowers & Wilkins. Quicksand, the world’s first ever live VR and 360 degree performance, also makes an appearance, with Björk adorned in Neri Oxman and the Mediated Matter Group’s bespoke 3D printed Rottlace masks.
Black Lake meanwhile, which serves as the threshold to the labyrinth of viewing rooms, is presented as an immersive panoramic installation. Originally created in collaboration between Björk and Los Angeles-based filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang for her major MoMA retrospective in 2014, the song unfolds over two screens playing juxtaposing edits of the film that envelop the audience in its deliciously devastating and explosively visceral landscape.
To open the show, Björk appeared via live-VR motion capture videolink from Iceland in the form of the character from her next video Family, adorned in James Merry’s kafkaesque regalia and digitised by The Imaginarium Studios using Unity software.
Björk explained above all, that she sees technology as a means of liberating creativity. “When the laptop came, it meant I didn’t need a studio any more,” she says. “For a woman I think it is especially empowering because I don’t need the whole patriarchy of the studio and that whole world to make my music…when the touchscreen first came I was so excited because I thought I could map out for the first time what I feel about musicology. I never really agreed with my music teachers that it was all 2D and so that a big turning point for me.”
Björk Digital also showcases Björk’s previous innovative work Biophilia, the world’s first app album which was created as a set of educational music technology programmes exploring the structural links between natural science and musicology. It was toured globally, and has since been adopted into the Icelandic national curriculum, and the teaching programmes of schools across Scandinavia.
The London exhibition forms the third leg of the global tour, following its premiere at Carriageworks in Sydney and a stint in Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Björk Digital runs at Somerset House until 23 October.