Tour Björk’s MoMA Retrospective Through Instagram
The uninspired presentation housed her most avant-garde outfits.
Among the myriad feelings that were inspired by the choice of Björk as a subject for a major MoMA retrospective, curiosity was a big one. How do you present a musician’s body of work as discrete works of art? We went to its preview to find out.
Every visitor was given headphones to “experience” the exhibition in a 40-minute immersion in sound, dialogue, and visuals. (However the time it took us to walk through the entire show was about 15 minutes). Take a tour of the retrospective below:
This small doll made by Björk is one of the first things visitors will see when they walk into the “Songlines” exhibition. The creepy diminutive figure of the singer in her mohair sweater set the tone for the exhibition as a whole—sort of less impressive than we thought it would be. (For a review of the show, see Ladies and Gentelmen, the Björk Show at MoMA is Bad.)
The next thing on view was Hussein Chalayan Airmail Jacket that Björk wore for her 1995 album Post. The item is actually made out of Tyvex-coated paper, the kind used to make real-life airmail envelopes.
The white robots featured in the music video for All is Full of Love directed by Chris Cunningham offers a paradoxical look into a more sensual side of Björk.
Nick Knight’s portrait of the singer was augmented for the show so the eyes blinked and the hands gently moved. While it’s otherwise an eye-catching image, we didn’t understand why it had to be animated.
Put together by the singer’s artist ex-husband, Matthew Barney, Björk’s beautiful nipple piercing, pearl-and-lace wedding gown, designed by the late Alexander McQueen for her Pagan Poetry music video, was draped over a rotating acrylic apparatus with a music box attached—by far the most interesting piece in the show.
The notorious Swan Dress made by Marjan Pejoski in 2001, for Björk’s Oscar red carpet walk, offered an up-close and personal look (maybe too up close?) at the singer’s most iconic outfit.
Next, the Bell Dress designed by Alexander McQueen was situated in a narrowly curved room with a red neon light suspended above, emulating the shape of a wound or a woman’s vulva—fitting as her newest album Vulnicura, means “cure for wounds.” But, ultimately, its placement was confounding, since the Bell Dress was worn for a 2004 music video.
True quirk and oddity govern the singer’s Volta costume—a massive sculpture to be worn on the body, if one desires to emulate Big Bird on acid.
These stitched numbers definitely took knitting to another level. At first we thought the artist Olek had snuck in and yarn-bombed the show. But no, in fact, these were costumes by artist collective Icelandic Love Corporation.
The (less than stellar) finale of “Songlines” was this incredible blue plastic cylindrical and voluminous dress designed by Iris Van Herpen and worn by the singer for her Biophilia tour. This avant-garde fashion item, looked drab in the dark room encircled by black velvety drapes. While we wouldn’t expect the show’s organizers to demonstrate a vision comparable to Björk’s, they could have added (but failed to) a tiny shred of her eccentric charm and creativity.
“Björk” is on view at the Museum of Modern Art through June 7.
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