‘Björk Digital’ at Somerset House invites visitors to engage with the Icelandic icon Björk’s work through the latest in virtual reality (VR) technology. Björk believes that by offering a private theatrical experience, VR provides a unique way to connect with her audiences. Coinciding with the release of her new album Vulnicura, this is an immersive virtual reality exhibition. Welcome into her world…
Located on the New Wing at Somerset House, visitors are advised to arrive 15 minutes early as entry times are strictly enforced and capacity is limited. Visitors move around into small groups redirected into compact rooms. Visitors quickly forget about the general heat as the experience is definitely innovative and entertaining. Blown away by a voice tone we had missed, Björk’s world is truly exhilarating.
The first room is called ‘Black Lake’, a two-screen version of Björk's Black Lake song, taken from the album Vulnicura. Shot on location in Iceland by award-winning director Andrew Thomas Huang, the ten-minute-long film for ‘Black Lake’ was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. ‘Black Lake’ was produced by Andrew Thomas Huang’s UK based music video production company Colonel Blimp. The audience is invited to move during the screening and feel the different sounds whilst discovering the Icelandic landscapes—caves, ravines, lava, and moss fields—and reflect ideas of pain, perishing, and rebirth. ‘Black Lake’ was realised in collaboration with the 3D design firm ‘Autodesk’, who worked along with David Benjamin and the living on the installation at Moma. Strings and percussions are as beautiful as the imagery. The audience forgets about notions of time and is already submerged by different types of feelings, transported by the way Björk magnificently rolls the r’s:
‘My heart is enorrrrmous lake
Black with potion
I am blind
Drowning in this ocean…’
Supported by Intel, AMD, HTC, Bowers and Wilkins and Barco Iosono, it’s only in the second room that we understand why. While Black Lake was shown in the darkness, visitors are invited to put on headphones and binoculars in the second room. Andrew Thomas Huang collaborated with Björk on Stonemilker VR, a project that transports the viewer to a private performance of the first track from Björk’s critically acclaimed Vulnicura album. Shot on location on a remote, windswept beach in Iceland and viewable in full 360-degree VR, the viewer experiences a one-to-one recital. An unusual performance where every time visitors move they discover something new in their field of vision. The stool is a key element of this performance as it helps you to discover what lies behind you too.
Have you ever dreamt to be inside the singer’s mouth while she sings? I hope the answer is yes, as this is also part of the exhibition. A unique experience which even gives you vertigo sometimes: the Mouthmantra! Björk worked with director Jesse Kanda to capture intense footage from inside her mouth whilst she sings, her teeth and tongue twisting and seemingly taking on a life of their own. Meanwhile, Notget VR, directed by Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones, presents Björk as a digital moth giantess transformed by stunning masks created by artist James Merry. And imagine when there is no stool at all, visitors stand up, walk with their masks and headphones and uncover moth giantess. How fun is that!
Björk’s fans will be thrilled to watch again her music videos but this time with a 5.1 technology in the ‘Cinema’ space. And just before leaving, there are two more rooms to discover: an interactive educational space which showcases the innovative apps and custom-made musical instruments from Biophilia, an app created by Björk that explores music, nature and technology.
This European premiere of Björk Digital is an exhibition of digital and video works, resulting from Björk’s collaborations with some of the finest visual artists and programmers in the world and matching with special performances at the Royal Albert Hall and the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith.
Björk pushes the boundaries of what is possible in music, art and technology. It reminds us how this artist has always been avant-gardist. Time stops when we listen to her and when we look at her, if you consider the 50-year-old artist has not changed at all. But it’s really the technology which tells us what can be conceivable nowadays and might give us a few hints of what will music and sound look like tomorrow. More individualistic? Or just unrivalled? But ‘She’ had warned us anyway, right?