Regardless of the questionable aspects of Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach’s Bjork Retrospective at MoMA, it’s worth the visit to see the works of McQueen, Van Herpen, and Chris Cunningham up close…and up close is no exaggeration.
Through the winding, tomb-like “Songlines,” it’s a sensory overload as Bjork’s childhood photos, notebooks, and costumes battle for your attention over the audio of a “girl’s” journey through the elements, written by the Icelandic poet, Sjon and narrated by Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, an Icelandic actress, as well as tidbits from her 7 major studio albums.
One of the first visuals is a multi-story projection of her 1993 “Big Time Sensuality,” with Marjan Pejoski’s infamous 2001 Swan Dress perched underneath. Shortly after, Chris Cunningham’s 1997 Bjork-like robots from “All Is Full of Love” glow behind a glass installment while Alexander McQueen’s Bell Dress and Shoplifter’s hair headpiece from Medulla’s “Who Is It,” along with Val Garland’s recreated 2003 crystal mask, sit beckoning museum-goers to get too close.
...it’s a sensory overload as Bjork’s childhood photos, notebooks, and costumes battle for your attention over the audio of a “girl’s” journey through the elements...as well as tidbits from her 8 major studio albums.
From here you’re introduced to Bernard Wilhelm’s 2007 Body Sculpture and Volta Tour Dress, The Icelandic Love Corporation’s Second Skin (2004) and Wild Woman Voodoo Granny Doll Crochet (2007). No ropes, tape or glass – get as close as you want. In the next small room sits another McQueen, a rotating pearl-and-tulle wedding gown she wore for the video of "Pagan Poetry" from the love-struck album Vespertine and the Perspex Celestina music box by Matthew Barney. Ending on Iris Van Herpen’s 2013 Biophilia tour dress, the journey halts abruptly and you’re back in the bright, bustling hallway on MoMA’s 3rd floor.
Additionally, on floor 2 sits a black box “cave” designed to mimic the set of Bjork’s video “Black Lake” from her new album, Vulnicara, based on the recent dissolution of her 10 year relationship with Barney, symbolizing the interior of her aching heart. Next door is a small theater where you can view her music videos, and album art is sprinkled throughout. In the lobby a MIDI-controlled pipe organ and a roboticized gravity-pendulum harp, among other Huffpost described “steampunk delights” from Biophilia, play soft music surrounded by crowds.
Love it or don’t, it’s worth the stroll even if the 40 minute “Songlines” tour only takes you about 10 – in the tiny labrynthian exhibition space, you’re forced to get up close, and each collaboration is worthy of an intimate look.