Björk explains designs of "magically utopian" sets and costumes

Dezeen, 19 juin 2018

Björk looked to classic Icelandic paintings and summer nights when designing the sets and costumes for her Utopia world tour, she explains in an exclusive interview with Dezeen.

The Icelandic musician, who is currently touring her latest album Utopia, told Dezeen that she took paintings from her childhood as inspiration when imagining the sets for the tour, which began 27 May.
She was also influenced by midsummer nights in Iceland, where there can be up to 24 hours of sunlight a day.
"I feel like foreigners mostly know Iceland in the winter, the black lava, the volcanos, the glaciers, the harsh brutal angle, but there is a side to Iceland in midsummer, especially the sunny nights in nature that are very magically utopian," she said.

Set on an island in the sky, the album Utopia, released 24 November 2017, centres on a dreamlike, future utopia where technology and nature are in harmony.

Speaking to Dezeen, the musician spoke of her efforts to create "an opium-like trance in a utopian garden", which she sought to achieve by combining the natural with the man made.
"It is a proposal of our possible future when we learn to get technology and nature to collaborate," explained Björk.

To achieve this, Björk enlisted the help of set designer Heimir Sverrisson, and artist James Merry, who created the intricate headpieces for the singer and her 12-piece flute ensemble.

"I found myself on long talks with the set designers, costumers, photographers and directors to finetune the balance between the biological and the urban," she said.

"This world is an attempt to reveal a functioning cooperation between the natural and the manmade, but I want nature to win a little – so like 65 per cent outdoors and 35 per cent manmade stuff," she explained.
The colour scheme was chosen as a blend of peach and a "very specific" pale blue-green, while wind machines were used to capture the sensation of floating in the sky.

For the headpieces, Björk wanted the aesthetic to be futuristic, citing the Sydney Opera House and sci-fi as influences. "[They] are an extension of bones as if they could help them make more powerful wind sounds, their skulls resonating with air," she said.
"It is nature collaborating with technology so there are all kinds of hybrids, plant-bird-human," she explained. "I talked about my face being an orchid opening, but also with breathing flute holes on my neck – a mutant bird-plant."
"It needed to look fertile and potent, that there is a erotic energy there, a potential for multiplying but also a little scary, a little fucked up, a comedy element to it too."

Meanwhile, the costumes chosen by Edda Guðmundsdóttir were made from a mix of white recycled plastic and "sensual peach hairiness".
Björk’s unique visual language has attracted a range of collaborations with designers, including Neri Oxman, who created a mask based on "digital interpretations" of her bone and tissue, and Maiko Takeda, who designed a spiky headpiece for an exhibition in Paris.

par Gunseli Yalcinkaya publié dans Dezeen


  • Edda Guðmundsdóttir
  • Heimir Sverrisson
  • James Merry