You might connect Bjork most with her early work with the Sugercubes or, shortly after their breakup, her first solo album Debut, released in the early 90’s when some people (ahem) were students. You might have got into her albums Post or Homogenic or – how progressive of you – Biophilia. Maybe you love her for her artistic album covers or the videos she collaborated on with the likes of Spike Jonz, Michael Gondry and Chris Cunningham. Or perhaps you just associate her with the time she wore a swan dress to the Oscars and laid golden eggs all over the red carpet. All such moments, alongside much, much more, that have been brought together in the Icelandic artist’s first major ‘mid-career’ retrospective on show now at New York’s MOMA.
Bjork, celebrated as a visual artist as well as a singer and composer, has a tendency in her music towards lush orchestral strings alongside heavy beats – a combination that particularly defines her latest release, and first ever heartbreak album, Vulnicura. A musical prodigy who studied classical flute and piano as a child and recorded her first album aged 11, she went on to sing with punk band Kurl, a group of guys she met in her local record shop, before she formed the Sugercubes. Recently interviewed about her creative work and ahead of the opening of her retrospective, she told Radio 6 Music: “Most often a colour is associated with a song or sometimes it’s something visual happening in a song like throwing cutlery off a cliff.”
In typical Bjork fashion, the retrospective is an all-encompassing visual and sensory affair. So while it incorporates the expected – all of Bjork’s eight full-length albums, a cinema space for her videos, her exquisite costumes and instruments (including the more obscure-sounding Gameleste, Tesla coil plus Gravity Harps) – there is also a more unusual high-tech interactive audio guide with a GPS and sensors. This leads visitors through the spaces via a fable about a girl going through all the albums.
Bjork explained in her radio interview that she was asked by MOMA director Klaus Biesenbach to do a retrospective for a few years before she said yes. “Looking at the past is not majorly attractice. In the end he hooked me in by commissioning a new piece. We went last summer to Iceland to film Black Lake.”
You’ll have to visit the retrospective to see the full film. In the meantime head to You Tube for a festival of videos from the artist’s back catalogue – including the wonderful All Is Full Of Love.
The exhibition is on until 7 June 2015 at MOMA.