HAPPENINGText: Yuji Shinfuku

Exhibition “Björk” about the titled singer-songwriter is held at Museum of Modern Art, (hereafter called MoMA) until June 7th. Björk has released eight solo albums so far, and in her more than 20 years of career, she has showed different expressions for each album starting from “Debut” in 1993 to the latest piece “Vulnicura”. She started composing music at the age of four, released her first record in Iceland at twelve, and before debut in solo, she was in a band called Sugarcubes, which was successful on world-wide scale. One can say her whole life is devoted to music.

“Björk”, The Museum of Modern Art, 2015

When you consider chronicle of different styles and her expressions without limit of genre, it seems easy to produce a retrospective exhibition. When she made her debut, she was in London, and collaborated with edgy electronic musicians. As she gets old her style kept changing, and lately it is deepened to a music which has static expansion. Her latest piece shows a new phase in her life for its theme being rebirth from the divorce with her ex-husband. Though she has been changing her style, I feel her creative world has something consistent. She is an artist who never stops changing yet having originality, and this exhibition is an opportunity to reflect on her expressions in many ways, setting music as a core.

“Björk”, The Museum of Modern Art, 2015

This exhibition is held mainly at the first and part of second floor of MoMA. If you go to the second floor, you can see a music video for Black Lake in her latest album “Vulnicura” shot by Andrew Thomas Huang in her homeland, Iceland. The room is dark just like a cave in the introduction of the video. There are two screens on both sides of the wall with embedded amplifier, which is a nice sound system to enjoy the piece. This 10 minutes-long piece seems to be a commissioned work with MoMA for this exhibition. Starred by Bjork in solo, this piece is so dramatic featuring beautiful nature in Iceland.

“Björk”, The Museum of Modern Art, 2015

In the next section, you can sit on a chair and watch all of the music videos in her career. There were lots of audience who stayed long as they can enjoy a big screen like a movie theater. Regardless of the fact that Bjork now lives in New York, I saw she was very popular there. The first floor is dedicated to moving images as she always surprises us with a new images every time she releases her work.

“Björk”, The Museum of Modern Art, 2015

The second floor has very special exhibit named “Song line”. Since audio guide is supplied for all the audience, you need to wait for most probably 1 to 1 and half hours before getting in, so it is recommended to see other exhibit while you are waiting. Each room are chronically organized for her albums, and has album cover art, costumes, accessories, and props used for promotions and live concerts. There are many must-see exhibits for her fans such as the robot used in “All is full of love”, the white swan dress worn at Academy Award in 2001.

“Björk”, The Museum of Modern Art, 2015

There are also notebooks with memos and lyrics while she had worked on creating albums so that you can see background of her creation. From the audio guide, you will listen explanations on each album and episodes during production. The narration from the ear-phone has something personal and intimate, so audiences stopped their walking to listen to it while they are looking at exhibited cosmtumes etc. They can see how her style has changed in chronicle order.

“Björk”, The Museum of Modern Art, 2015

On the ground floor, there are some musical instruments made for the “Biophilea” tour. “Gravity harp” which looks 3 meters tall, is played using gravity, “Gamelesta” which creates a sound mixed with Asian gamelan and a Western key board instrument clelesta. I’m amazed with her creativity to make new instruments in addition to applying sounds of existing instruments. App of Biophilia is exhibited in this floor, and you can actually touch on it with iPad. This is archived at MoMA as the first app which can be downloaded. From universe-llike deisingned main page, each track has its own page with graphical music score and various programs. You can enjoy music and image in instinctively.

“Björk”, The Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Although you need to wait for your turn to see all the pieces, the exhibition does not seem to be on a big scale. They collected everything available such as music videos, costumes for tours, and also I must admit there is no one else but can have a retrospective exhibition at MoMA as a musician, and this is very rare opportunity to see all pieces and costumes, yet still I felt it’s lacking in insight into internal side of the musician and artist.

Steel Shot from “Vulnicura”, Björk, 2015

It’s sure that Björk’s music is great and she applies not only music itself but also moving image, fashion, digital applications, musical instruments etc without limiting genre. Such a spontaneous, all-around approach proves she’s a true artist. Though her focus is on music, her way of expression is complexed. She has a concrete vision, and expands her idea like a kind of universe by mixing media and technology. This exhibition provides an opportunity to see an incomparable artist’s standpoint in art field.

Date: March 8th – June 7th, 2015
Opening hours: 10:30 – 17:30(till 20:00 on Friday)
Place: The Museum of Modern Art
Address: 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY
Admission: Adult 25$、Students 14$、under 16 years old free
Holidays: Thanksgiving day and Christmas
Tel: +1 212 708 9400

Text: Yuji Shinfuku
Translation: Yoshimi Irie

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