Björk's MoMA Retrospective Is All About the Costumes
Whether you're a Björk fan or not, there's no denying that the Icelandic singer is a consummate artist. And her peculiar creativity—as a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and avant-garde exhibitionist—is literally on full display at the Museum of Modern Art's forthcoming self-titled retrospective, which traces her myriad projects and eight full-length albums in sequence. The exhibition is composed of multiple parts: It begins in the lobby, where instruments used during the making of her 2011 album, Biophilia, are on view, playing music composed by the artist and alerting passersby in transit to other areas of the museum. Upstairs in the Marron Atrium, two pitch-black screening rooms present Björk's 10-minute video installation, Black Lake, from her most recent release Vulnicura, and a chronological loop of her music videos, respectively.
But despite the evident sonic achievements, the real spectacle was the fashion, shown one floor above as part of the Songlines portion of the exhibit (a separate ticketed section). Conceived as an augmented audio guide, Songlines traces the last 22 years of Björk's storied career, from her first solo album, Debut, in 1993 to present day, using her costumes as visual cues, while a soundtrack—with each song corresponding to a particularly memorable ensemble—pummels through the headsets. What's more, each of the mannequins is a near-exact replica of the singer, enabling viewers to visualize the clothes as if the artist is right in front of them. "You can feel her presence through her instruments," said Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator at Large at MoMA, at a press conference earlier this week. Here are the four looks we were most excited to see in the flesh:
Swan Dress, Marjan Pejoski, 2001
Arguably the most-talked-about look at the 2001 Academy Awards, Pejoski's now-infamous dress, composed of tulle, feathers, and leather, was designed to resemble the graceful white bird. Never one to shy away from a spectacle, Björk pretended to lay an egg as she walked the red carpet, and later wore it on the cover of her 2001 album Vespertine and throughout the corresponding tour.
Bell Dress, Alexander McQueen, 2004
While it's hard to tell in the 2004 music video "Who Is It," in which Björk wears this bell-shaped McQueen dress while traversing a giant lava field, it's actually made of thousands of jingling bells.
"Pagan Poetry" Dress, Alexander McQueen, 2011
From the music video for "Pagan Poetry," about a woman preparing for marriage, this pearl, lace, and tulle gown, also by McQueen, is shown onscreen only covering the bottom half of Björk's body, while the upper half is made of pearls piercing her skin. In the exhibit, it's on display atop a rotating structure attached to a music box.
Biophilia Dress, Iris van Herpen, 2011
The brainwork of Herpen, known for her architectural designs and innovative use of materials, this 3D creation made of plastic and cotton is allegedly inspired by photographs of micro-organisms. It also calls to mind Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Björk is on view at the Museum of Modern Art from March 8 to June 7.