Björk virtual reality exhibition to go on show at Somerset House
Björk Digital will showcase how the Icelandic singer has pushed boundaries, culminating in Royal Albert Hall gig
An exhibition celebrating the vast and experimental visual repertoire of the Icelandic singer Björk is to be held at Somerset House this autumn.
Björk Digital will showcase the works created by the avant garde musician that have accompanied her music over the past two decades, celebrating how she has pushed the boundaries of art and technology.
The show will include never-before-seen work by Björk, as well as invite audiences to interact with performances such as the video for Stonemilker, in which she sings on a remote beach in Iceland, through 360-degree virtual reality headsets.
Björk Digital will culminate in an event at the Royal Albert Hall in September, her only live UK show this year.
Jonathan Reekie, the director of Somerset House, said the exhibition would be a testament to Björk’s pioneering disregard for the boundaries between art forms.
“It’s a show that is part performance, part exhibition, part film, part digital installation – it crosses music, visual arts, design, technology. It’s amazing and is brilliant for us at Somerset House,” he said.
“It celebrates her vast artistry and the fact that she’s an artist that completely defies categorisation. If you delve into her work over the years you can see she’s created some extraordinary film pieces around her music, and it’s rare to see an artist willing to embrace all these new technologies, like virtual reality, so fully into their work.”
Reekie said there had been a “rough and ready” renovation of rarely used but charismatic rooms at Somerset House, which were once part of Inland Revenue, to house some of the new works that Björk is still completing.
Other works to be featured in the show will be Black Lake, the immersive film commissioned by Moma for the Björk retrospective it held in 2015, based around a song from her recent Grammy-nominated album Vulnicura – Latin for “cure for wounds”. The video shows Björk throwing her body around dark volcanic rock in Iceland.
Reekie said the show would be “completely different” from last year’s Moma restrospective, which featured everything from instruments and costumes to video props and Björk lyrics but was poorly received by critics.
Björk is involved in this show, which had previous incarnations in Sydney and Tokyo, “down to the smallest detail”, he said, which means the final vision is still shifting.
Reekie said one highlight would be Mouth Mantra, a surreal virtual reality piece created from footage captured inside Björk’s mouth as she sings the title track from Vulnicura, enabling audiences to experience, in 360 degrees, the movement of her tongue and teeth.
The show will also celebrate how Björk has embraced cutting-edge technology to add new dimensions to her work. This includes her creation of an app, the first of its kind, to accompany the release of her 2011 album, Biophilia, which built a three-dimensional galaxy around the songs and featured interactive custom-made instruments, visuals, games and essays.
Reekie said it felt like the right time for an exhibition celebrating Björk, not only because of her continuing popularity, but also because “the way she thinks, the way she works, the way that she crosses all these different boundaries to me seems to be an epitome of the way contemporary artists think and work, innovating in all sorts of ways”.
Speaking to the Guardian at the recent opening of the show in Sydney, Björk said she was drawn to the intimacy of virtual reality technology.
“The older I get the more I understand what is special about how we experience music,” she said. “It’s either one on one, or thousands of people at a festival where you lose yourself. It’s not intellectual, it’s impulsive. Virtual reality is a natural continuity of that. It has a lot of intimacy. As a musician, to be intimate is really important. If you want to express certain details, it’s an opportunity to do that.”
Her music videos, which have been directed by renowned figures such as Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Andrew Thomas Huang, will also be featured in the Somerset House show.
Björk Digital will be at Somerset House 1 September-23 October.