Björk Returns to Gigging (Thank God), Gerhard Richter Communes With Arvo Pärt at Manchester International Festival

Can a concert salvage Björk's reputation?

Bjork performs at the Roskilde Festival in Roskilde on July 8, 2012. Photo courtesy Malte Kristiansen/AFP/Getty Images.

With the public still reeling from Björk’s MoMA exhibition—either from having seen the show itself or having read the tide of scathing reviews (see Ladies and Gentlemen, the Björk Show at MoMA Is Bad, Really Bad)—Manchester International Festival (MIF) has announced that it will host the songstress’s first European concert to promote her latest album, Vulnicura (see Björk Will Release New Album Timed with MoMA Retrospective).

Björk is not new to the biennial festival, where she performed her previous album, Biophilia, over six evenings in the summer of 2011. Those were the days, pre-MoMA retrospective, when the Icelandic composer and singer’s idiosyncratic quirkiness and earnestness were fully celebrated, not debased by dubious museum displays.

Since its launch in 2007, the festival has won a strong reputation for its top-notch cross-disciplinary program, featuring works across visual arts, performance, theatre, and music. And one of the highlights of its fifth edition will be the pairing of two of Europe’s most influential cultural figures: the painter Gerhard Richter and the composer Arvo Pärt.

According to festival sources, the two luminaries met in Dresden in 2013, under the auspices of über-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and MIF CEO and artistic director Alex Poots. As a result of this meeting, both artists created new works dedicated to each other. The German painter crafted a series of four works, under the title Doppelgrau, and Pärt the piece Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima.

Next July, these pieces will come together at the Whitworth Art Gallery, where the Estonian choir Vox Clamantis will perform Pärt’s composition with Richter’s Doppelgrau acting as background.

“I look forward to meeting Gerhard Richter again in Manchester,” said the Estonian composer. “It is very exciting for me and an honor that our works will converge; as different as they may seem, they must be somehow related.”

“This is possibly the most ambitious pairing of artists that MIF has yet presented,” Poots commented. “These giants of their artforms have between them experienced and reflected some of the key moments of the 20th century and we are profoundly grateful to them for the opportunity to see and hear the results of their creative friendship.”

Arvo Pârt (left) and Gerhard Richter<br>Photo via: BBC

Arvo Pârt (left) and Gerhard Richter
Photo via: BBC

The fifth edition of MIF will also feature the work of British artist Ed Atkins, who will present the multidisciplinary installation Performance Capture. Pop sensation FKA Twigs will also contribute, by making seven short films during 18 days, while Blur’s Damon Albarn will present a musical based on Alice in Wonderland (see Was Lewis Carroll a Pedophile? His Photographs Suggest So).

Some highlights of the festival’s previous editions include the premiere of Steve McQueen’s Queen and Country (2007), the group exhibition/opera Il Tempo del Postino (2007), curated by Obrist and featuring works by (Björk’s ex) Matthew Barney, Tacita Dean, and Olafur Eliasson among many others, and the premiere of The Life and Death of Marina Abramović (2013).

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