“Slow down,” it sounds in the headphones handed out at the entrance. “Concentrate,” it demands again. The voice is Antony Hegarty’s of Antony & the Johnsons and on top of feeding instructions on pace and focus level throughout the tour, he also introduces Bjork’s Songlines, which is part of the Icelandic songstress and artist’s long awaited exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The iPhone-connected headphones are a crucial part of the retrospective installation; besides playing a mix of Bjork’s iconic and charismatic music according to position within the space, fellow Icelandic musician and writer Sjon provides a biographic narrative from start to finish. Chronicling Bjork’s 22-year-long career, each room compromises notebooks, costumes and objects—some of the most noticeable are Chris Cunningham’s incredibly human robots from the video for All is Full of Love, Marjan Pejoski’s controversial swan dress from 2001, and many unforgettable Alexander McQueen garments—from her eight albums (Debut (1993), Post (1995), Homogenic (1997), Vespertine (2001), Medulla (2004), Volta (2007), Biophilia (2011) and Vulnicura (2015)).
Despite the technological (and nostalgic) effects of Songlines, the most attractive part of the exhibition is Bjork’s new short film/music video Black Lake. Directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, the video is not just another visual masterpiece—set in the dramatic nature of her home country with costumes by the likes of Dutch fashion designer Iris Van Herpen, it has great impact—the song is also an expression of the pain Bjork went through during the separation from her longtime romantic (and occasional artistic) partner Matthew Barney.
You leave the room—perhaps with a sparkle or two in the corners of your eyes—and enter a second room where all of her videos are chronologically projected one after the other: she’s exploring a fantasy teddy-world in Human Behavior (1993), she’s enveloped in red strings emerging from her breasts in Cocoon (2001), she’s having a fight with her boyfriend, a cat, in Triumph of a Heart (2005), and she’s caught in a world of eruptions in Mutual Core (2012).
If it wasn’t evident before, the magnitude of Bjork’s (and her collaborators’) talent should be clear to all who visits MoMA starting Sunday March 8th: she’s created music with nothing but human-made noises, she’s released her own technological galaxy to accompany Biophilia, and she’s sold more than 20 million albums worldwide.
Bjork’s a genius!
Bjork is open at the Museum of Modern Art from March 8 until June 7, 2015.