Björk is wearing a bubblegum-pink latex blouse, and an intricate golden mask is wound into her braids, with two glossy pearls covering her eyes. As she enters a darkened room at Carriageworks, we all draw breath – she is a spectacular praying mantis. Like her music, she is a little obscure, but completely enrapturing. The Icelandic singer-songwriter is in Sydney for Björk Digital, a world-premiere virtual-reality experience and curated program of her extensive video work, spanning her 24-year solo career.
Housed within the halls of Carriageworks, Björk’s VR world is made up of four rooms, each featuring a video from her most recent album, Vulnicura, displayed using different new video and sound technologies. The novel technology is at times a little shaky – indeed Björk Digital is one of the first ever music and modern VR collaborations. Björk describes the exhibition as a “risk”, but a new frontier that she was excited to explore and to share.
“I was fascinated by how [this technology] captures intimacy so well; you can be even more intimate than you are now in a video or a live concert,” she smiles. “It’s so much more penetrative.”
Within the first room is the Australian premiere of Black Lake. Two cinematic screens, an army of speakers and new surround-sound technology encircle the pitch-black chamber. In the video directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, Björk emerges from a volcanic landscape in the highlands of her native Iceland, with electric-blue lava flowing around her.
The following two rooms feature VR headsets and swivel chairs. In Stonemilker you’ll join Björk dressed in neon yellow on the black-sand beach of Grótta, Reykjavik. In Mouth Mantra, you’ll find yourself within the confines of Björk’s mouth as she sings. The fourth and final room may be the most extraordinary – Notget has been matched to a live, hyper-bright 360-degree 3D landscape, which you can move through via advanced HTC Vive headsets, affixed to the ceiling.
The VR exhibition launched over the weekend amid Sydney’s spell of torrential rain and two sold-out opening parties. Björk presented two five-hour DJ sets, hidden behind a fort of greenery and ferns, wearing more alien-like headdresses crafted by artist and frequent Björk collaborator James Merry.
Also included in the exhibition is Björk’s Biophilia, an immersive multimedia educational experience for music teaching, which schools in Scandinavia have now adopted. As for why she chose Sydney as the home for this pioneering project, Björk says, “I wanted to show all VR videos and then DJ. So I had to find a place on earth that would be up for this risk.”
The Björk Digital exhibition is at Carriageworks until June 18. The exhibition is free, but bookings are recommended and can be made here.