Quirky Icelandic singer Björk brings ‘Björk Digital,’ her creative virtual reality show, to L.A.

ocregister, 25 mai 2017

For the opening day of Björk Digital, a touring exhibit by the quirky Icelandic singer-songwriter, Björk showed up in person. Virtually, at least, which is entirely the point of the show in downtown Los Angeles through June 4.

Much of what’s on display here from Björk — who also has a sold-out show with a 32-piece string orchestra on May 30 – is built around the use of virtual reality, and so when the media assembled for a preview of Björk Digital filed into a dark room with a large screen it wasn’t that hard to guess who the special guest was about to be.

Björk, in the form of a VR facsimile, beamed into the room to chat live from Manhattan about the genesis of the exhibit, which got its start, she explained, after her most recent album “Vulnicura” was leaked online two years ago. Instead of promoting the record in a more traditional manner, she decided to try something new, teaming up with Los Angeles filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang, to create 360-degree virtual reality videos to accompany some of the songs on the record.

“You can still improvise,” Björk said of her interest in exploring VR as an artistic medium. “It does remind me of the future. It’s blank and you don’t know. You sort of have to dig a cave with a teaspoon and you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

On the screen, Björk appeared as a red-and-purple avatar, a lavender horizontal wound on her chest — “Vulnicura” is said to mean “cure for wounds” — with tiny strands of lights encircling her. When she moved in Manhattan she moved on the screen.

We’ll come back to her conversation in a moment, but let’s walk through the highlights of Björk Digital, which is presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, first. It opens with the Biophilia room, where iPads programmed with apps created for the 2011 album of the same name gives users a chance to interact directly with the songs, changing the imagery and the playback as you choose.

The next room features a video for the song “Black Lake,” with two slightly different edits screening simultaneously on either end of a large room filled with 50 speakers. It creates a cool effect as you move through the room, but the good stuff was just ahead with three rooms in a row that featured 360-degree virtual reality videos of another five numbers.

“Stonemilker” was shot on an Icelandic seashore and presents Björk singing directly to you, and occasionally two Björks side by side. You watch this one and the two that follow while sitting on a bar stool that allows you to turn around and while wearing a VR headset and headphones to view other parts of the setting where the video was shot.

The relative realism of “Stonemilker” gives way to the surrealism of “Quicksand” and “Mouth Mantra.” In the first, Björk seems made of light and stars, and the viewer feels to be floating inside a constellation created from the matter that flies from her mouth and eyes and skin. For “Mouth Mantra” the warnings of the exhibit workers – if you feel disoriented inside the video, take the headset off – finally make sense, as the video places viewer inside Björk’s mouth as she sings the song, the overall feeling something akin to a bad acid trip.

The final two interactive videos are the most ambitious. “Family” features a Björk similar to the avatar she’d appeared at for the media a bit earlier, and the viewer here holds hand-controllers in addition to the VR goggles and headphones, with the triggers on each hand letting you create ribbons of light and bursts of color.

“Notget” was much the same, though without the hand-held devices, and presents the singer as – per the exhibit description – “a digital moth giantess (who) transforms victoriously in masks,” because, after all, it’s Björk we’re talking about here, yes ?

After all that, we return to the Cinema room where a two-hour loop of music videos from throughout Björk’s career are screened on a loop, with pillows scattered on the floor so you can chill out a bit to everything from “Bachelorette” and “All Is Full Of Love” from her 1997 album “Homogenic” to “Hidden Place” from 2001’s “Vespertine,” and on throughout her catalog.

Earlier in the same room Björk had talked about her upcoming shows in Los Angeles – she’s with the orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Tuesday, May 30, and plays the first night of the FYF Fest in Exposition Park on July 21.

“I decided to put all the focus on the music for (Disney Hall),” Björk said, describing the concert as her vocals with just the orchestra and no flashy visuals. “I’m kind of fond of extremes, as you probably noticed. It’s going to be all for the ears.”

At FYF, though, where she’ll perform with her recent collaborator, DJ and electronic musician Arca, the show will have all the lights and videos you’d expect at a rock show, with a different set planned to emphasis the change from one setting to the next.

“I really enjoy these poles,” she said. “To sing for two hours with just strings is double hard because I can’t hide behind anything. It’s more naked. With Arca, it’s more happy, more joyful.”

She’s also got new music coming soon, too, a happier counterpart to “Vulnicura,” which was written in the wake her split with longtime partner Matthew Barney, and reflects that turmoil in its subject and sound.

“I am right now starting to make my next project,” Björk said. “And it probably happens not on earth.”

She paused to giggle and continued.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but yeah, probably.”

par PETER LARSEN publié dans ocregister