Björk talked art, technology and nature ahead of her exhibition, Björk Digital, now showing at Carriageworks as part of the Vivid festival.
Here’s the Icelandic artist in her own words, from her conservation with Sydney Outsider (and dozens of other media outlets present).
Björk on VR
I was fascinated by how it captures intimacy so well. You can be even more intimate than you are in a video or at a live concert…it’s full penetration. As a musician it’s a really exciting point to have, to be able to be that intimate with someone. And then the other thing that’s kind of obvious is the 360 element, which is maybe more known and which is more Wagnerian or like an opera, which I feel I’ve only just touched upon. You can be in a space [like] inside an insect and then seven hundred elephants run over you; it can be very extreme; you can really play with scale in the most theatrical way.
All the videos so far were filmed with different technology and it’s this environment that I find very exciting, this pioneer universe where people are still discovering things… I’m committed now to make a whole VR album for “Vulnicura”.
On filming Black Lake on location
It’s really close to where I live, it’s only half-an-hour drive… It was slowly apparent that this album was all about going back home and healing so it sort of had to have lava and Iceland nature in it, but the sort of barren one to exaggerate the emotional state of heartbreak, which Iceland is very good at. That’s kind of why we ended up using Iceland almost as a character in most of the movies.
On filming Mouth Mantra in her mouth
The idea to do it in the mouth was actually Jesse’s [director Jesse Kanda]. We started off in my mouth – it’s definitely a very “Jesse sense of humour” kind of thing – and then we actually started collaborating with this high-tech company in Japan. I got sent to a dentist’s office and put this goo in my mouth and they made a model, which they then 3D-printed in Japan in a bigger way. Then they made, especially for this video, this brand new tiny 3D camera that got put inside the model and waltzed around that other mouth – so I’m not going to take full credit for having hosted the camera internally, but I did some of it – it is my mouth, as you can tell from the shapes of the teeth.
On her relationship with nature
As I get older I understand better and better that maybe my experience of nature is kind of Icelandic or maybe it is actually quite rural… when I’m in a rural situation I feel normal and when I’m in a city I feel like I’m holding my breath, like I’m in an airport; I’m just waiting to get out of there.
But overall, I walked to school every day which was a 40-minute walk in all weather and I would sing on the way and I think my idea of nature is it’s just a sense of well-being. I’m not like a fanatic that wants to hunt all my food and get off the grid and be self-sufficient – even though that would be fun. I think it’s more for me about the harmony you feel, especially after a 40-minute walk. The sky and the ground and the plants, everything merges and you lose sense of identity. I like that feeling and the weather and wind in your face and I think it just makes me happy. You see kids do that – they are maybe annoyed or grumpy and they go outside for just half an hour and then they’re fine. We would probably not have to use so much money on psychiatrists – too much mental labour – if people would just hang out outside much more.
On technology and art
I find it very exciting. Obviously technology is just a tool… the morality doesn’t come wrapped up into the new inventions, or the soul; the humanity, we have to put it there. Part of me, I’m very conservative and I like Icelandic old melodies and am very connected with the land and there’s a part of me that’s quite pro-nature, but there’s also part of me that’s a bit of a magpie, I like shiny objects… New technologies are an opportunity to update us with what’s happening right now in the world. Like it or not, people like armies, the military, governments, Google, Big Brother, whatever, everybody’s going to embrace it, so for artists to stick their head in the ground and say, “I’m not going to,” that just means there will be no things with that craft that will have humanity and will have soul. It’s important for us to embrace it so we are on the same plane as the politicians and as the military folks and business/money people.
While something is still being discovered, you’re entering the unknown and you can’t fall into old habits or old traps and do things like you’ve always done them. It shakes you up and you have to go blindfolded into the unknown and discover not what you were ten years ago but what you are now so it’s very helpful. And I also think, especially as a pop musician – and I’m quite proud of making modern folk music – it’s a certain duty to be using the same tools that we are using every day, texting your lovers or family and Skyping or going on Facebook… It’s easy to go back to the acoustic wooden things and close your eyes and decide the world is evil and I’m not going to take part in it, and I’m just going to go back in my cave and write a little acoustic number.
Björk Digital is showing until June 18. From the press release: “Björk Digital is a world premiere presented in five unique spaces throughout Carriageworks and represents the premiere of a new virtual reality project by Björk using Intel technology and software, alongside other collaborations with some of the finest filmmakers and programmers in the world.”
Photo: Santiago Felipe