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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Performance 9: Allora and Calzadilla at MOMA

Posted by The G on January 2, 2011 under Artsy Fartsy | Read the First Comment

Photos by G.

Performance 9: Allora and Calzadilla

Performance 9: Allora and Calzadilla

New York – if you want to see a really interesting performance art piece that mixes music, sculpture and crowd participation, I highly recommend you get thee over to the Museum of Modern Art before January 11, 2011 to check out Performance 9 by Allora and Calzadilla.  A hole has been cut out of the center of a piano. A performer gets inside the piano and performs the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony upside down and backwards (from the angle the performer faces the keys) and walks around the atrium of the museum while it’s being performed!  Wow!

As the performance starts, a crowd gathers around the piano to watch this amazing feat.  As the piano player travels around the atrium, the crowd basically has to move out of the way and as this happens, the sound of the symphony starts to change as you follow the performer around.  The performances happen every half hour during museum hours, so you should definitely check this out and have your mind blown.

Ariel view.

The Piano

Marina Abramovic – The Artist Is Present

Posted by The G on May 11, 2010 under Artsy Fartsy | Read the First Comment

Photos by G.

Marina Abramovic (on the left) in an all day staring contest at MOMA.

Yugoslavian artist Marina Abramovic is currently starring in an exhibition of her work at New York’s Museum of Modern Art entitled “The Artist Is Present.”  The exhibit spans 40 years of Abramovic’s career from photography and video installations to live performance art. The performances are definitely interesting as there are about 5 people in the exhibit that are completely naked.  Most stand expressionless and the ones that do look right into your eyes (as you are inevitably staring at their private parts).  There is one part in the exhibit where a naked man and woman are standing in very close proximity to each other and the only way you can enter the next room is to walk through them.  Cameras and cheap feels are not allowed in this exhibit that has to be seen to be fully understood.  It definitely gave me some interesting food for thought and I am sure it will do the same for you. On the ground floor of the museum, the artist sits in the atrium sitting totally still staring into the eyes of another person seated across from her.  Again, not the most profound installation you’ll ever see, but certainly interesting. The exhibit runs through May 31, 2010.

Marina Abramovic - The Artist Is Present now at MOMA through May 31, 2010.

Want to Meet David Byrne?

Posted by The G on April 12, 2010 under GNN | Comments are off for this article

Photo by G.

David Byrne - Appearing at MOMA on April 13, 2010.

David Byrne from the Talking Heads will be at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on April 13, 2010 to sign copies of his latest CD “Here Lies Love,” a 2-CD oddessy that was composed with DJ Fatboy Slim and is about former Phillipines first lady Imelda Marcos.  Byrne will not be signing other memorabilia, so if you want to get that stuff signed, be sneaky!  Read more about the event here.

Tim Burton and the Lurid Beauty of Monsters Exhibit

Posted by The G on December 30, 2009 under Artsy Fartsy | 2 Comments to Read

All photos by G.

Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA now through April 26, 2010

Aside from loving The Nightmare Before Christmas and the first 2 remakes of Batman, I am not a huge Tim Burton fan.  That changed dramatically when I went to the Tim Burton and the Lurid Beauty of Monsters Exhibit at MOMA with the always fabulous Gail.  The exhibit was very crowded, so I’d advise that you use the above link to get your tickets in advance, as it’s been sold out for weeks.

The man has been creating art (and thankfully cataloging it) since he was a little kid, and it’s all on display now at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  There must have been a thousand works in this exhibit.  You’ll see paintings, doodles, unreleased cartoons, costumes, renderings and models from this brilliant man.  There’s stuff from all of his major films (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Black Cauldron, Batman, Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, James and the Giant Peach, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride,  Mars Attacks, Sweeney Todd and the list goes on…) A few of my favorites were a drawing of “Vincent” that was autographed by the inspiration Vincent Price, with a note saying “I wish I was him”; a handwritten letter to Johnny Depp with an idea for a line he should say in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and a rejection letter from Disney on a children’s book that Burton hand illustrated when he was a kid that basically said he is talented but he’s not commercial enough.  Who’s laughing now?  If you even remotely like his work, this exhibit is a must see. They were very strict about no photos (read: buy the $70 coffee table book instead), but I got a few for my faithful.  Enjoy them after the jump (and there’s more on Gail’s blog.  Link is above).

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