Björk on staging her theatrical show in the pandemic : ‘It’s worth the risk’

SF Chronicle, 26 janvier 2022

She needs no introduction, but when Björk calls from Iceland to talk about plans to bring her first theatrical production, “Cornucopia,” she doesn’t take any chances.

“Hello, my name is Björk,” she says in the unmistakable voice that has thrilled pop music fans for more than three decades, trilling and soaring through left-of-center solo hits like “Army of Me,” “Pagan Poetry” and “Big Time Sensuality,” as well as jagged singles like “Birthday” and “Hit” with her former band the Sugarcubes.

The singer is staging “Cornucopia” as part of a limited run of shows that’s scheduled to take place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Jan. 26, Jan. 29, and Feb. 1, before heading to Chase Center in San Francisco on Feb. 5 and 8.

Inspired by the material on Björk’s 2017 release, “Utopia,” and co-directed with Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, the multimedia production made its world premiere in New York in spring 2019, before plans to stage it in other cities were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She spoke to The Chronicle from her home in Reykjavík, cautiously optimistic about finally bringing the tour to the West Coast before moving on to her next project.

Q : You do not typically like to linger on one creative idea for a long time. Was it frustrating to have to sit on the “Cornucopia” shows for two, three years ?

A : To be honest, especially watching the rest of the world where people are suffering, I can’t complain. Every time they postponed the shows, I did more of my album. And then they postponed it again, and then I did more for my album.

I feel blessed because I’ve just been in my own house for two years. I keep waking up in my bed, and I’m like, “What the f— ?” I don’t think I’ve been home so much since I was, like, 16. I have been secretly really enjoying it.

I am mixing the album now, so I managed to complete the whole album. Also, I did shows here in Iceland. We got postponed, I think, seven times. But to be honest, it wasn’t shaking up our schedule that much because it’s a five-minute walk from the venue to my house. If they moved it back a month, it’s like, I can’t complain. So, yeah, I was one of the lucky ones.

Q : Did the boredom of being at home inspire a burst of creativity for you like when you were 16 as well, right before you started the band the Sugarcubes ?

A : It’s different maybe when you are older because it’s just such a luxury to be at home. I guess I have a habit of getting too excited about so many things. I’m one of these people who put too much on my plate, so what I was enjoying mostly was having time to do a song and then have another idea for another song, not being in a rush and just relaxing, or working with friends. Letting the songs come when they come, you know, not with any pressure.

It can be tricky to be driven more by what you think you should be doing rather than what you want. I was enjoying just letting go of that.

Q : When you first produced “Cornucopia,” the intention was to close the digital and human divide. Has the context changed through the pandemic ?

A : Maybe the strongest impact it had on me was to see the reaction of all governments combined — how quickly we can change stuff, and maybe hope that they will use that wisdom we have for the environment. That’s maybe where my head is at. Both me and Greta Thunberg have a manifesto that we read in the “Cornucopia” show that we recorded a few years ago, and I was thinking, “Maybe I need to change that or do something about it.” But to be honest, it’s even more relevant now.

Since humankind can react so strongly when the pandemic comes, we should react in the same way in the emergency that is the climate change and environment. I think, if anything, the critical message is even more relevant.

Q : With COVID cases rising so rapidly in the U.S., are you concerned the shows might not happen ?

A : Yeah. I’m looking at the news in the U.S. twice a day, kind of every minute. I am aware of it, but I think also it is in the rules that you can’t go to the show unless you are vaccinated. So it should be, let’s say, something that people can choose for themselves if they will take that risk or not.

It was very, very powerful to do the shows in Iceland in the autumn. The whole place was crying — that was a very, very powerful experience. I think we all really need concerts. I think that’s also what I’m thinking about, that it’s worth the risk for people who want to take that risk. I want to be there for them to join them in risk-taking because I believe that music is a thing that people can’t live without.

But I’m leaving it to California authorities to make the decision — whatever they say.

par Aidin Vaziri publié dans SF Chronicle