chron

Bjork virtual experience a big time commitment but worth it

For a music festival that aims to be something different, Day for Night hosting the U.S. debut of Björk Digital fits the mission. It is, however, a lot to ask of a music festival audience.

The entire virtual reality portion takes 80 minutes, and only groups of 25 are admitted at a time. For those who didn’t get to register for an assigned time, of which there are many according to comments on the festival’s social media accounts, the wait alone was restrictive. Katheryn Mitchell was in line by 2:30 p.m. At 7:30 p.m. she was still in line.
"We wanted to see Lower Dens at 5. We wanted to see Odesza, but that’s kind of over," she said. "But we thought this was an experience we wouldn’t be able to have in any other environment so it’s worth it."

There was a lot of confusion and mystery leading up to the weekend. What is "Björk Digital" ? Would Bjork be in Houston ? (For the record she did a DJ set on Friday night and was scheduled for a second set on Sunday.)

Lewis Parry and Steven Masters drove in for the festival from Dallas and were among the many who could not get a reserved time for the Björk experience. They arrived early and ran for the line when the gates opened at 2 p.m.

"It was a lot more intimate than I was expecting," Lewis said. "I like Björk more for her art than for her music, so it was important to me to see this."

A bit on the set up : You enter the exhibit in groups of 25. The experience is in four virtual reality rooms curtained off with heavy black drapes. Inside three of the rooms the audience sits on swivel stools, and after some brief instructions on how to use the equipment, they don the virtual reality headsets and headphones.

"It was a lot more instructional than expected," said Masters, adding that he did enjoy the experience. "I was expecting to be allowed to just be, set free in the environment."

Afterward the two sat on black cushions in a dark room. Björk music videos played on a large screen. They needed a moment to decompress, they said, before moving on to the rest of the festival.

Some criticism has been leveled at the display, including that it’s more ambitious than the technology allows. The Day for Night set up confirmed some of those criticisms. The headsets fogged up in the muggy Houston weather and bleed-over sound from the festival distracted from the experience.

But avante garde art is often uncomfortable at first. Audiences need a moment to learn how to experience it before they move on to evaluating it. The technology is not easy, but as it becomes more ubiquitous it’s easy to see the possibilities. Such as it is, Björk has created an avenue for her audience to go with her on a journey through her inner world.

What is the virtual reality experience exactly ? If you weren’t able to get in. Here’s what you missed

Part 1 : In this portion Björk stands, digitally, right in front of you on a rocky beach. She wears a long yellow dress that blows in the wind along with her hair. It’s a private concert, just for you. This set up, as an intro to the experience, is important. She sings of longing to find mutual coordinates, shared emotions, a connection with her audience. She implores you to share the space with her, to look out at the sky, the waves washing up on the beach and the lighthouse. You could almost touch her. Once you leave this room she’s taking you on a trip to another world, one that exists only inside her head.

Part 2 : In the second room you enter Black Lake*, directed by Andrew Thomas Huang. It’s the most voyeuristic of the experiences and the guide explains before it starts that it was originally filmed to be shown on the four sides of a gallery wall, but the crowd standing all together didn’t give it the intimate setting she was looking for. Enter the virtual reality portion. With the headset on, it’s just you, alone in a rocky cave. At one end, a light at the end of the tunnel. On each side of the cave, a window to a wide-open field in which Bjork performs her heartbreak. It’s the same scene on each side with just slightly different perspectives. It’s you. Alone in a cave, looking out at her heartbreak.

Part 3 : In this portion there are two songs : Quick Sand and Mantra. This space marks a transition in the mood and use of the technology. It’s less realistic and more other-worldly. In the first song the impression of Bjork stands in front of you. Her face a mask of lights and colors that swirl above her head. Tunnels of light move above and behind you, rushing through galaxies and stars.
In the second song, you are positioned in her mouth. You look at her uvula on one side, her teeth on the other, but it’s swirling, mixing and nauseating. At other times the perspective changes and you’re looking out at her through teeth.

Part 4 : For this portion the group is divided into pairs. You stand instead of sit and move around the space under the watchful eye of an attendee who makes sure you don’t bump into each other. For the first song you’re given a controller that gives you an illuminated hand and a trigger. When pulled, it allows you to create ribbons of light flowing out from it. A bright blue orb and then another tunnel. Again, the see-through impression of Bjork is in front of you. She sings about mothers, fathers, children and family. You are situated again in a tunnel and imagery goes racing by that can only be described as vaginal, in the Georgia O’keefe sense. A second song begins and this is all about love lost, a refusal to regret, similar wounds but disparate remedies. As she sings, the vision of her walks around you and at a point, through you until you get the distinct feeling you’re once again inside her. Eventually she separates again and dances in front of you. The mask on her head starts to burn until eventually she turns into nothing but white light.

Francisca Ortega

publié dans chron - 20.12.2016

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