"Björk," a retrospective of the inimitable Icelandic musician, opens at the Museum of Modern Art this weekend. Unique in its content and production, the exhibition takes place over multiple floors of the museum, showcasing the artist's career from 1993 to present.
"Black Lake" is "the heart of the exhibition," MoMA's Chief Curator at Large Klaus Biesenbach said at a news conference on Tuesday. The 10-minute film was produced by MoMA and filmed in volcanic caves in Iceland last year and the song is featured on Björk's new album, "Vulnicura." The dark cuboid that the film is shown in "rebuilds the experience" of the cave, Biesenbach explained. The soundproofing was designed to look like the barnacles of the cave and to emulate the cave's sound.
A cinema space next to the "Black Lake" immersion room screens 30 of Björk's music videos, including "It's Oh So Quiet," directed by Spike Jones and the acclaimed "All is Full of Love," by Chris Cunningham.
Songlines, on the museum's third floor, takes visitors on a chronological journey through Björk's eight albums, with an innovative audio guide experience. A narrative written by Icelandic poet Sjón leads the visitor through different rooms that correlate with the story being told. Five minutes of story line is dedicated to each room, and the audio device automatically shifts to the story's next chapter as visitors move through the exhibit. The catch -- you can't move back to a previous room, and to move on to the next before the chapter is over is to miss out on the story and damage the overall experience.
This sound design and use of technology to slow the visitor down and take notice -- to truly see and meditate on the entire sensory experience -- is at odds with what many people's relationship with tech devices is these days, as an instrument to distract; to disengage from one's physical environment.
The feat of the Songlines experience is that its technology achieves the opposite. "In a world where everybody is on their little screens ...? It is the exploration [of] 'What is an authentic experience?' ?...That is what we embark on in this exhibition," Biesenbach said.
Costumes, diaries and props from music videos are among the items displayed as visitors wind through the narrated Songlines passage. Dresses designed by Alexander McQueen, the robots from the music video for "All is Full of Love" and Marjan Pejowski's iconic swan dress Björk wore to the 2001 Academy Awards are highlights.
Also on display, in the lobby of the museum, are unusual instruments used in Björk's 2011 album "Biophilia," including Gravity Harps, invented by American designer Andrew Cavatorta.
IF YOU GO: "Björk" opens Sunday, and runs through June 7. Entry into the exhibit is free with general admission. Adults $25, Seniors $18, Students $14, Children under 16 FREE. Entry to the Songlines component of the exhibit is timed entry, available on a first-come, first-serve basis on the day. MoMA hours 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. every day. Open till 8 p.m. Fridays. 11 W. 53rd St., 212-708-9400.