Host I: The Icelandic musician Bjork has made a career out of pushing artistic boundaries.
Host II: Now MOMA is showing a retrospective of her life and work – it’s the first time the museum has dedicated an exhibition to a musician. It’s been widely panned by critics, but as Dasha Lisitsina reports, a music video at the centre is a revelation.
The Bjork exhibit at the MOMA starts in the lobby. That’s the sound of one instrument from Bjork’s last album – it’s called Gravity Harps. They look like guillotines with swinging pendulums hanging off the sides.
[Sound of Gravity Harps]
The Gravity Harps were designed specifically for a song about planetary orbits on Bjork’s previous album Biophilia. For that tour she sang in science museums and worse dresses inspired by clouds and microorganisms.
Upstairs, the rest of the exhibit is exactly the kid of thing you’d expect from Bjork. The MOMA show takes us chronologically through her career and is narrated by Bjork herself. It’s peppered with a collection of memorabilia: her song lyric diaries, a suit jacket made from airmail envelope material, and other Bjorkian extra-terrestrial oddities.
The apex of the exhibit, off in a dark room to the side, is a 10 minute music video commissioned by MOMA for the retrospective. It’s called Black Lake and is from her laest album Vulnicura. The entire album is a diary of a heart break. She made it right after her divorce with her partner of more than a decade, the artist Matthew Barney. Black Lake is a song of loss, devastation and mourning. It’s raw, especially for Bjork.
Bjork: My heart is enormous, lake black with potion/ I am blind drowning in this ocean.
Music critic Brad Faberman says for this album Bjork shed her mystical slightly alien skin to reveal an open wounded heart.
Faberman: A couple of them really stopped me in my tracks. Like, did I love you too much?
[Fade up Black Lake]
Huang: These were real emotions and this was a real divorce she’s going through. It’s not like she’s just acting for us. If she’s beating herself and crying, then she’s actually beating herself and crying.
That’s Andrew Huang, director of the Black Lake video and he’s worked with Bjork for a long time. He says there’s something quite different about this break-up lament.
Huang: We’re so used to heartbreak albums as a staple in our culture, but they’re always teen heartbreak albums. But this is a heartbreak album of someone who’s nearly fifty and who has a child.
[Fade up Black Lake]
With this latest album, Vulnicura, Bjork shows us her least stylized, most raw self. The Bjork exhibition at the MOMA runs till June 7th.
Dasha Lisitsina, Columbia Radio News.