Björk remarked to your author in a 2012 interview, “It is funny, I get these offers from museums, they want to collaborate with me and promote me. I’m flattered. But at the end of the day, I’m fine with just being a pop musician.”
But here we are in 2015, and we’re five days away from the anxiously anticipated opening of Björk, her eponymous retrospective at that exalted temple of modernism, New York’s MoMA. We still sit on the fence about such matters; after all, the last thing such a soaring spirit as she would seem to need is to be restrained within museum walls.
Yet this exhibit succeeds because it doesn’t attempt to “art” the Icelandic wonder. Rather, rooms are set up so that one can genuinely commune with various sequences of Björk videos—a medium which, surely, no one has so magically embraced as she. In fact, as the kookily endearing clip for “Triumph of a Heart” (it ends as she’s dancing with her, um, cat/boyfriend) flows into the rather primal and terrifying “Where is the Line”, you begin to genuinely understand the astonishing depths of her heart and range of her intellect.
Another section of the show titled Songlines, exhibits her scribbled notes (interesting, if you’re into that sort of thing) alongside the mind-bending results of some of her most extraordinary collaborations: Alexander McQueen’s eerily enchanting “Pagan Poetry” dress; the infamous Marjan Pejoski swan dress; a stramgely animated version of her Nick Knight Homogenic cover design; the wholly unsettling Bernhard Willhelm body sculpture; the futuristic “All is Full of Love” robot. Here, you realize what an unparalleled cultural galvanizer she has been. She has excitedly gravitated to these fellow creatures of ineffable genius, and they have responded by reflecting her back in their fantastical creations. It’s breathtaking just to consider the places Björk has taken us by way of her seemingly infinite imagination.
Best of all, the audio accompaniment isn’t the usual post-structuralist-meets-advertising-copywriting blahbiddy-blah. Rather, it’s some sort of mystical stream of consciousness narration, set to the music; which, of course, seems utterly appropriate.
Yes, it’s a big commercial museum spectacle. And yes, it will be very crowded when you go. But at a time when so much art and music seems as if it’s merely popping out of a zeitgeist vending machine, this reminder of all that Björk has given us, is not only welcome, but nothing less than exigent. Go.