Report: “Bjork” at MoMA

Posted by The G on March 9, 2015 under Artsy Fartsy | Read the First Comment

Photos by G.  Various Artists.

Bjork wears Marjan Pejoski’s Swan Dress (2001)

Bjork wears Marjan Pejoski’s Swan Dress (2001)

As a big fan of singer/artist Bjork, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the Museum of Modern Art would host a “mid-career retrospective” on the Icelandic goddess in 2015.  I will report on the exhibit in a moment because by now, if you’ve seen any press on this exhibit, it has been overwhelmingly negative.  I have to agree, but only because Bjork is such a unique and amazing artist, the exhibit does not do her career much justice, especially to those who use this exhibit to get an education in all things Bjork.  I enjoyed myself, but for a retrospective, so many great possibilities for a wonderful exhibit fell through the cracks.

Partial gallery view of Bjork's singles covers.

Partial gallery view of Bjork’s singles covers.

The show opened to the public on March 8, 2015, so naturally Gail of Worleygig and I checked the show out on the first day.  I cannot say this is how your experience will go, but we got to the museum around 11 o’clock am and our timed ticket to view the exhibit was for 12:45, but you may want to prepare for a longer line, just in case.  The exhibit consists of 3 parts:  1. A screening room with a video for the song “Black Lake,” which has been specially commissioned for this exhibit.  The video is about 10 minutes long and is about Bjork’s breakup with artist Matthew Barney (whose collaborations with Bjork are ignored in the exhibit).  Second (and this is what you need timed tickets for) is “Songlines,” a quasi-immersive experience into each of Bjork’s solo albums, featuring handwritten lyrics, costumes and miscellaneous ephemera from her solo work.  Last, a screening room features all of Bjork’s music videos (though her last album “Biophilia”).

Bjork - All Is Full of Love

Bjork – All Is Full of Love

I guess this is as good as any place to start talking about what the exhibit lacks.  Bjork’s early career is completely ignored – from her childhood singing (she released her first album in 1977, in case you didn’t know) to her beginnings in various Icelandic punk bands (and one of them was called Tippi Tikarrass which translates to “Cork the Bitch’s Ass.”  The public at large should be educated in this!)  Also ignored, the band that put Bjork on the world map in the late 1980s – The Sugarcubes.  Instead, you start with Bjork’s solo album “Debut” (1993).  You walk through a hallway that features running loops of each of Bjork’s tours – packaged in a room that is not conducive to spending lots of time and makes the non-diehard gloss over the amazing performance artist that Bjork is in concert.  You are given a headset and you get to hear a story that has nothing to do with the recording of the music and instead tells you the journey of a girl, whose story may or may not be true, but again taking the focus away from all the rules Bjork was breaking as she embarked on her solo career – working with cutting edge producers, making artistic videos, making singles that had extremely diverse (even if sometimes annoying) remixes, her usage of interesting artwork for her releases and most of all, her carving out a place in the music landscape with her unique lyrics and quirky personality, never selling out by going mainstream and always remaining a true avant-garde artist.

Bjork - Venus as a Boy Lyrics

Bjork – Venus as a Boy Lyrics

Typically each room focuses on one of her solo albums (aside from the remix album “Telegram,” the soundtrack to her collaboration with Matthew Barney “Drawing Restraint 9” her own “Selmasongs” record, which is the soundtrack to the critically acclaimed film she starred in called “Dancer in the Dark” and even the “Army of Me” cover album, where 20 versions of that song which were submitted by fans and the moneys from the project went to 2004 Tsunami victim relief).  The exhibit does not benefit from having the music videos separated from the props on display from each album because as you see the evolution of her videos, you will also hear the evolution of her music.  For the die-hards, we already know this, but to someone discovering the world of Bjork for the first time, they have to dig really deep to get some answers, and Bjork’s music can be extremely challenging at times.  Besides, seeing clips of appropriate videos would at least give the uninitiated a bigger clue into what Bjork is all about, as they are not likely to sit down for 2 hours to watch Bjork’s videos in a separate part of the museum.

Bjork by Alexander McQueen

Bjork by Alexander McQueen

Some of the most iconic outfits Bjork has worn are on display from a dress made by Alexander McQueen to the infamous Swan Dress, and in fact, the mannequins look eerily like Bjork.  There’s nothing in the exhibit to tell you how she ended up working with these people or how the costumes fit into the theme from the album.  Also absent are sales figures, track lists, several officially released coffee table books about Bjork’s work, awards and any sort of mention of her collaborations with the likes of Thom Yorke of Radiohead or writing the title track for Madonna’s album “Bedtime Stories.”  Even the groundbreaking interactive “Biophilia” app, which was acquired by MoMA, doesn’t even make an appearance!  Whoever curated this exhibit did a huge disservice to Bjork’s career.

Bjork - Biophilia Era

Bjork – Biophilia Era

The items on display are certainly cool and interesting, and if you are a die-hard, seeing so many infamous Bjork-items are a treat, so I enjoyed the exhibit, as did Gail, a lover of art and not a huge fan of Bjork’s music.  However, there have been many exhibits where I was unfamiliar with the artist on display as I walked into the show and when I left, I felt I had a much better understanding of their work.  With this Bjork show, it is definitely not the case.

Bjork - Volta Era

Bjork – Volta Era

I think you can appreciate this exhibit no matter what your level of Bjork fandom, but if you don’t take the time to dig deep with her work, which many viewers will not, the true artistry of Bjork’s career will not be seen or heard, and that is a tragedy.  Let us know what you think if you go in the comments section.

Bjork” at MoMa runs through June 7, 2015.

Bjork - Volta Era

Bjork – Volta Era

Bjork - Joga Costume

Bjork – Joga Costume

Bjork - Hyperballad Shoes

Bjork – Hyperballad Shoes

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Download Bjork’s Biophilia Live at the NY Science Museum via NYCTaper

Posted by The G on February 16, 2012 under GNN | Be the First to Comment

Photo by G.

Bjork - New York Science Museum

Bjork Live at New York Science Museum

If you missed Bjork’s residency at the New York Science Museum, there is good news. NYCTaper has recorded the audio of one of the shows (and it was the one I went to!) and you might recognize some groovy photos in their review!  😉

Head over to NYCTaper (link will open in a new window) and grab your copy of Bjork live on February 12, 2012.

The setlist was:

Tracks 01 [intro] 02 Thunderbolt 03 Moon 04 Crystalline 05 Hollow 06 Dark Matter 07 Mouth’s Cradle 08 You’ve Been Flirting Again 09 Isobel 10 Virus 11 Generous Palmstroke 12 Sacrifice 13 Pagan Poetry 14 Mutual Core 15 Cosmogony 16 Solstice 17 [encore break] 18 Nattura 19 Declare Independence

I’d like to add this disclaimer directly from NYCTaper:  Note: All of the material on this site is offered with artist permission, free to fans, at our expense.  The only thing we ask is that you download the material directly from this site, rather than re-posting the direct links or the files on other sites without our permission. Please respect our request.

Review: Biophilia live by Bjork at Museum of Science

Posted by The G on February 13, 2012 under G Reviews | 3 Comments to Read

Photos by G.

Bjork

Bjork

Oh Bjork!  The Icelandic singer has made an album combining science and nature with the latest in sound technology called “Biophilia.”  She’s promoting the record with a series of concerts at New York’s Museum of Science in Queens.  I attended the show on February 12, 2012 and when it comes to putting on an amazing live show, Bjork does not disappoint.  Backed with a choir, who sounded like a chorus of angels, Bjork performed her entire album “Biophilia” while trippy visuals were shown on screens over the stage.  The venue for a concert like this was perfect as we were situated in a tall building with amazing acoustics and since the show was in the round, every spot in the room was a decent vantage point.

Bjork

Bjork

Aside from the new album, Bjork also played “You’ve Been Flirting Again” and “Isobel” from “Post,” “Mouth’s Cradle”  from “Medulla,” “Pagan Poetry” from “Vespertine,” the non-album classic “Generous Palmstroke” and the finale, “Declare Independence” from “Volta.”  Though “Possibly Maybe” was on the set list, it was not played.  Bjork was recovering from a cold but she still sounded amazing and was wearing an interesting dress that only Bjork could pull off.  Bjork said thank you after many of the songs but didn’t say much else to the audience except to ask if we would help her sing happy birthday to one of the women in her choir.

Bjork

Bjork

For those that think “Biophilia” is a little too obscure to get into, seeing it performed live really helped me to enjoy the music more; however, like a lot of Bjork fans, I am waiting for an all out dance album.  Bjork will be performing several more shows in New York throughout February including a few more at the museum and some at Roseland in Manhattan.  If you like Bjork’s music, you will not want to miss this show.  It’s extremely intimate and it makes you reaffirm your love for Bjork, whose talent and willingness to experiment is the very thing that is missing from so many acts that are out there today.

See the set list after the jump.

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