Björk's MoMA Retrospective Revels in Her Mystery Without Demystifying Her

Categories: Björk, MOMA

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Courtesy of Welhart and One Little Indian
A still from Björk's Black Lake, directed by Andrew Thomas Huang
The Björk retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art is an enterprise fifteen years in the making. MoMA's curator-at-large, Klaus Biesenbach, first spawned the idea of a sweeping tribute to the Icelandic singer/visual artist in 2000, but it wasn't until 2012 that the project was actually green-lit. It took an additional three years for several of MoMA's shimmering white exhibition rooms to be transformed into a meandering Björk-maze, chock-full of her memorabilia and iconography.

It hasn't taken long for art critics to universally pan the exhibit, deriding everything from its physical organization (New York called it "a discombobulated mess") to its lack of thematic cohesion (the Guardian said "it's one part Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exercise, one part science lab, one part synesthesia experiment"). The event, which drew swarms of people to its museum-member preview on Saturday and officially opened to the public March 8, promises to transfix the public for the rest of its residency, regardless of whether its contents are worthy of such curiosity. As this weekend's crowds became thicker by the hour, one thing was clear: None of the negative criticism really matters all that much. The event itself isn't about watching Björk's music videos or fawning over her penchant for bizarre dress. It's about her allure and mystery, and our need to understand her artistic motivations — and the fact that we probably never will.

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Björk's NYC Residency Kick-Off Performance Showed the Strength of Vulnicura

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Photo by Kevin Mazur
Björk kicks off her NYC residency with an afternoon performance at Carnegie Hall, 3/7/15.
Fans flocked to Carnegie Hall on Saturday morning for the first show of Björk's six-part NYC residency, while just a few blocks away, her new career retrospective at the MoMA was beginning to draw a crowd. Despite the scattered flak she has received for it, the move to arenas like art museums and concert halls is commensurate with the direction in which the Icelandic singer-songwriter's work has been moving since the outset of her solo career. Her artistic vision has always been challenging and ambitious (even to the point of wild self-indulgence), and is well served by these settings. Saturday's matinee was just one piece of proof.


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Bjork's Ten Boldest Collaborations

Categories: Björk, Lists, MOMA

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via Sacks & Co.
Björk
Björk, one of the most singular artists of our time, continuously hurtles forward with her experimental solo work and adventurous collaborations in film, art and fashion, and especially music. Her seven-date New York City residency and the opening of her career-spanning retrospective at the MoMA take place this weekend, with the residency commencing at Carnegie Hall March 7 and the MoMA exhibit opening its doors to the public on March 8. In honor of her NYC takeover, here are ten of Björk's most memorable musical collaborations.

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part III: Occupying The Year Of The Woman Cliché In Hopes Of Blowing It Up

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Kanye West at Occupy Wall Street; confused woman.
Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Hello all, and thanks! I'm honored to be here. Let's talk about the collapse of the global economy.

Or rather, let's not; as tempting as it is to link early 2011's glut of apocalyptic dance or late 2011's druggy numbness to financial panic or cultural malaise, you'd have to glibly ignore 99% of both music and the cultural moment. Even the arguments that almost worked didn't, like the reductive meme that Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne was just about being rich, not about the experience of being black and having become rich. And speaking of the 99%, it's far too soon to anoint any Occupy Wall Street anthem. (Sorry, Jonah, Miley's track is just a fanvid.) There's been music on the ground, of course, and there's an album coming out, but it's telling (of my now-bastardized Google Reader feed, if nothing else) that my main associations between music and Occupy are three things: the Radiohead non-concert that turned out to be a new-media bro's prank, the musicians whose Zuccotti cameos were probably out of good intent but in practice indistinguishable from photo ops, and the albums in Occupy's library, which was seized after the NYPD raids—alas, the cloud couldn't save it.

Nor can megastars—they're too busy mythologizing themselves to survive in lieu of those megasales. There are exceptions; candor in interviews and mega-megasales aside, you can't really call Adele a "celebrity," at least not using that term. (Contrary to rockist belief, this is not a selling point.) But take Rihanna, who's wearing herself out being better at this sort of thing than anyone else. Icky news stories? Out-ick them on Twitter! Gossip cackling about Chris Brown? Tease it in the "We Found Love" video! Moral guardians carping about being too sexy? Send racks of raunch down the Talk That Talk assembly line!

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Sounds Go Through The Muscles: Bjork's Top Ten Hip-Hop Connections

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Coming to you from heaven's art gallery: "Triumph Of A Heaven."
As you may have heard, Björk's latest album, Biophilia, has been specially designed to work best on an Alphasmart 2000 word-processor. This pioneering piece of multimedia is likely huge fun for tech-heads, but for music fans it might also be the aural equivalent of playing with your food. And Björk's food is usually fine as is.

So, then, why not take the opportunity of Biophilia's release to plot Björk's hip-hop connections. She said that Public Enemy's music was a fixture on the Sugarcubes' tour bus back in the day. Since fleeing that band and going solo, she's maintained on-and-off collaborations with rap artists and industry figures alike. Here then are Björk's ten most prominent connections to rap, listed in chronological order for optimum nerd-friendliness.

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Björk And Michel Gondry Create A Planet Of Sound In The "Crystalline" Video

Categories: Björk

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Björk debuted the video for "Crystalline," the first single from her upcoming album/app/experience Biophilia, this morning, and the Michel Gondry-directed clip has a somewhat lo-fi charm about it; the beats and chimes and other musical elements divined by the Icelandic singer create the pulses of life for a planet in a galaxy far, far away. Watch below.


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Hear Björk's Gorgeous, Hypnotic "Crystalline"

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Over the weekend Björk released "Crystalline," the first peek at her forthcoming iPad-app-slash-album Biophilia, which is slated to land on tablets and in stores and in various other places around the world in September. It opens with delicate chimes and the Icelandic singer's unmistakeable voice before spiraling out into something harder—yet the glimmer of the music-box-light opening remains apparent throughout. Listen below.


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Dave Longstreth Finally Vents His Unrelenting Whale Obsession Through An Album With Bjork

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Mount Wittenberg Orca
In the words of the Dirty Projectors' Dave Longstreth himself: "Don't listen on those tiny stereo speakers -- put in on the stereo and blast dat shiiiiiiiiiiii!!"

Aside from commanding us to "blast dat shiiii," bet you never thought Longstreth would be singing (presumably) the vocal line of a daddy whale on a new album called Mount Wittenberg Orca. As it's been explained, Stereogum's Brandon Stosuy facilitated the Bjork/Dirty Projectors collaboration after calling upon their services for that Housing Works benefit concert last year. Things went from Bjork asking "What should we do?" to Longstreth responding "I guess I'd really love to write a bunch of new songs for us to sing together," and next thing you know, Bjork has "agreed to sing the part of the mom whale." Amber, Angel, and Haley, the harmonic sirens of the Dirty Projectors, are assuming the roles of the kid whales. This sounds exactly like you'd imagine.

The album's single, "All We Are," below:

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The Dirty Projectors (And Björk!) Are Up To Something, And Here Is (Oblique) Proof

Perhaps today in your Internet travels you will observe a few short, surrealist videos such as the one above, abstractly depicting some sort of Björk/Dirty Projectors project, putatively titled Mount Wittenberg Orca. A date, too: June 30. Huh. No idea what this could be about. Absolutely none.

Photos: Rites of Spring, A DJ Benefit For Haiti Featuring Alex Ross, Björk, Dave Longstreth, Tyondai Braxton, and Brandon Stosuy

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Björk, Brandon Stosuy, and the Dirty Projectors's Amber Coffman. All photos by Sam Horine.
We won't pretend to be remotely objective about Rites of Spring, last night's DJ benefit for Haiti organized by our pal Brandon Stosuy and featuring the diverse yet weirdly complementary talents of the New Yorker's Alex Ross (whose charming setlist is already up on his blog), Björk, the Dirty Projectors's Dave Longstreth and Amber Coffman, and Battles's Tyondai Braxton. Suffice to say it was 100 degrees inside Bushwick's Above the Auto Parts Store, a complicated "Bieber Detonation" was assayed (as in: the 11/4 bar from the Rite + Bieber's "Baby" + Lachenmann + Non's "Fire in the Organism" + Cage's Williams Mix), and Stosuy's late-stage, all black metal set (plus Aaliyah!) was greeted like the blessing of a god. Voice photographer Sam Horine was on hand to capture the madness.

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