Aching to know about the Bjork Retrospective at MoMA?

This Sunday’s opening of the Björk Retrospective is sure to bring in swarms of fans and folks curious as to what all the hype is about.

The show draws from more than 20 years of Björk’s innovative career.  It took years for MoMA’s Chief Curator, Klaus Biesenbach to convince Björk to do this show – her chief concern as a musician was the museum being able to provide the same visceral experience one can enjoy with paintings with music at its core.

Chronologically, the exhibition begins with the release of Björk’s first solo album, Debut, and proceeds through her career up to her most recent work in 2015, including a new video and music installation commissioned especially for the Museum, Black Lake (which also appears on her new album, Vulnicura).

The experience begins in the museum’s lobby, where you’ll encounter musical instruments programmed to play music and sounds from her seventh album, Biophilia. The only one I saw during the preview was the Gravity Harp designed by Andrew Cavatorta.

The other instruments promised – a Tesla coil,  a gameleste (combination of a gamelan and a celesta) and pipe organ, will hopefully be on display by the opening of the show.

Then onto the Marron Atrium for the immersive sound and sight experience, Songlines…

It begins in a dark corridor, not unlike the corral they used during the Tim Burton retrospective. I’m sure it’s meant to entertain you while you wait to enter the actual exhibit (suitable for those long summer lines sure to come).  Monitors flank both sides of the lines, playing excerpts from a range of her concerts.

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You’re about to take a 45-minute guided tour through her seven albums: Debut (1993), Post (1995), Homogenic (1997), Vespertine (2001), Medulla (2004), Volta (2007), and Biophilia (2011).  Think of it as a Björk concert – colored lights, transformative music, and those iconic wacky outfits.  Before you enter, you’re given a device and a headset, and asked to listen to a 2-minute introduction preparing you for the accompanying fictious biographical journey written by Icelandic writer and longtime Björk collaborator, Sjón.

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This is not intended to be your normal museum experience – instead of rushing through – you are supposed to pace yourself with the story that unfolds. Your device leads the way; the screens changes in time with the next chapter of the story  – the next album graphic that appears signals your entry into the next portal a’ la Björk.  Making sure there’s no confusion, each room is also denoted with the album graphic seen on your device.

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Here’s the deal – you can’t force people not to charge ahead, but if you shut out the distractions (difficult to do with the limited amount of space versus the number of people that might be in the room with you at any given time) and give yourself over to the imaginative story backed by classic Björk songs, the next 43 minutes should be a intimate poetic dance of words, accompanied by visual images that embody the essence of a Björk show (i.e. not Björk herself).  If you, like me, can map out college and all the years after with her music – you will geek out over the memorabilia.

I warn those who are not onboard with magical realism – this narration, coupled with the wispy, tiny voice of Icelandic actress Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir might just come off as nonsensical storytelling.

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Hussein Chalayan, Turkish Cyproit, British, born 1970 Airmail Jacket, 1994/2015 Tyvek, from the cover of POST

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Chris Cunningham, British, born 1970 “All is Full of Love” Robots, 1999

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Alexander McQueen, British, 1969–2010 “Pagan Poetry” Dress, 2001 / Matthew Barney, American, born 1967 Vespertine Music Box, 2001 acrylic, brass and copper mechanical apparatus /Vespertine Live Shoes, 2001 Acrylic

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Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir aka Shoplifter, Icelandic, born 1969 Medulla hair piece, 2004 Human hair and mesh fabric / Alexander McQueen, British, 1969–2010 Bell Dress, 2004 Silk, metal bells

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Icelandic Love Corporation Wild Woman Voodoo Granny Doily Crochet, 2007/2015 Woolen yarn, wood, foam, polyester and plastic

 

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Bjork’s Journals containing song lyrics from around the time of Debut.

There’s a cinema space showing a chronological presentation of Björk’s music videos, it clocks in at a little over 4 hours.  Considering the time you’ll spend waiting to see the other exhibits, I’d recommend watching those babies on your big screen tv in the comfort of your own home (youtube anyone?).

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Instead, head over to the lower level of the Marron Atrium for, Black Lake.  Sorry to tell you – there will be more standing in line.  Our wait, however, was rewarded with a visit from Bjork – in full cactus regalia – who gave a quick thank you speech in that wonderful fantasy world voice of hers.

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Bjork. Still from “Black Lake,” commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and directed by Andrew Thomas Huang, 2015. Courtesy of Wellhart and One Little Indian

Hello, hard-core Björk fans, this is where the magic happens – Black Lake is a 10-minute video, commissioned by MoMA, filmed on location in Iceland.  Like most Björk productions, its ambitious and wrought with emotion.  Most already know that this song is about her ending relationship with Matthew Barney.  This is what I love about Björk – that raw space she allows you to inhabit – this was definitely a wound.

The video plays on two huge screens situated to the left and the right of the viewer, in a space made to evoke the feeling of the cavernous space she filmed most of the video inside. There are beats that resound against the walls and bounce against you like heartbeats. She sings with such anguish that at times it seems too much, being filled up with her emotion and yours.  Thank goodness for those huge gaps where the beat dies down leaving the aching to subside – only for it to begin again – for your heartbeat to start back up. There’s a part in the video where she pounds on her chest in panicked steady beats – love dies and the old self with it, to survive you must make yourself anew – it was like watching a pained resuscitation.  What’s not said (cool fact) is that she never lipsynced this – Björk sung this passionately take after take until they got it just right.

It’s not a perfect retrospective, I wish the costumes were just there instead of placed on weird Madame Tussaud statues. Instead of merely hosting videos, maybe some behind the scene workings of the albums themselves would have worked. I mean, Medulla was a triumph all in itself.  That album was created almost entirely a capella, constructed with human vocals. During the press conference, they talked extensively about her creative process – totally absent from the exhibits. I’m tempted to say that the backstory of the undertaking is far more interesting than elements of the actual show.

Needless to say, in spite of all that, I enjoyed myself.  Maybe I’m biased because I’m a huge Björk fan.  If you like nothing else about the retrospective, focus on the evolution and beauty of her music that moves you and hope that that was the point all along because after you’ve spent hours in these exhibits she remains ever the enigma.

Maybe that’s what was always intended.

COOKIE MONSTER VISITS THE MET, MOMA AND GUGGENHEIM ON HIS ART TOUR

It was epic. Yesterday, Cookie Monster left Sesame Street to visit the Met, MoMA and the Guggenheim on his art tour. Not to mention that in support of his tour, Big Bird finally tweeted from his account, and the interchange between he and Cookie couldn’t have been more adorbs…


I mean, I was so excited about the tour that I had to pull over to the side of the road when the first Instagram surfaced of Cookie Monster in the MET.  There’s no denying that people who grew up with the characters from Jim Henson’s Workshop have a hard time acknowledging that they are merely… nope I won’t say it.  Let’s just say there was no shock that people losing their stuff while cozying up with Cookie for their Instagram posts. This is by far one of my favorites…

Best. Job. Ever. #cookiemonster #metmuseum

A photo posted by meteveryday (@meteveryday) on

Sesame Street is prepping for Cookie Monster’s PBS Kids movie special “The Cookie Thief,” airing next week. I can’t get enough of the concept “In ‘The Cookie Thief,’ a cookie art museum has just opened on Sesame Street. Surrounded by beautiful cookie paintings, like “Girl With the Cookie Earring” and the “Muncha Lisa,” Cookie Monster and his friends feel as if they’re in a whole new world. But when art suddenly starts to disappear, Cookie Monster quickly becomes a suspect. Can Cookie Monster clear his name? Will they find the missing art in time or will Cookie Monster be banished from the museum forever?”

Look who stopped by to see some art! It’s Cookie Monster, all the way from @sesamestreet. #CookieArtTour

A photo posted by MoMA The Museum of Modern Art (@themuseumofmodernart) on

Amuse yourself and browse through the photo of Cookie checking out VanGogh, Degas and Cezanne during his tour at @ModernMuseumofart @Guggenheim @metropolitan @sesamestreet.

Yes, Cookie Monster, it’s the real “Starry Night”! #CookieArtTour A photo posted by MoMA The Museum of Modern Art (@themuseumofmodernart) on

*photo courtesy of the Guggenheim Instagram account.

Kids Eye: Tatianna

We’re reintroducing our series ‘Kids Eye’, where we spend time hanging out with an Art-tastic kid. Here’s a look back at our very first art kid interview…

A while ago I came up with an idea to spend time observing an art-tastic kid in their environment.  Can I experience art again through the eyes of a child?  In the process, can I introduce them to something new?  I’ll talk to them about their interests, and maybe even convince them to take a field trip with me. The goal is to learn from one another.  

All I had to do is borrow someone’s kid, not as easy as it seems – but I got one.

Tatianna lives in Pittsburgh, PA and started second grade this past September.  Due to the short attention span of the little one, I broke my visit up into two days. This is our mini story.

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Day One:

Tatianna invites me into a small studio space that she shares with her grandmother. Her side of the space is filled with colorful paper lanterns, tiny chairs, and an easel.  Various ceramic pots lace makeshift shelving, filled with paints, brushes, scraps of paper, ribbon, pipe cleaners, and other found objects. Paint splattered tutu’s and shirts hang from pegs above her easel.

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Thank you for letting me come watch you paint.

You’re welcome; I like company when I paint.

Tatianna, how old are you?

I’m Seven.

And have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up?

Art Teacher.

That’s cool. When I was in school I always looked forward to art class. Do you have a favorite artist?

Yup, the Illustrator from the Pinkalicious books, Victoria Khan.

I’m impressed that you know illustrator’s name.

My grandmother always tells me the name of the writer and illustrator before she reads.

I see. I notice you have the radio on. Do you always paint to music?

Sometimes…I wanted to paint today because I saw that movie Frida Halo. It inspired me.

Oh, you mean Frida Kahlo.

That’s what I said.

Sorry. So how does it make you feel when you paint?

I feel great, it gives me a chance to enjoy myself and let myself go. I can make whatever I feel, I mean the feeling is so good. Though some days I get upset when I feel my art isn’t coming out very good.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I’m learning to skateboard. It’s a mini one, but when I get older I’ll get a big kid one.

I was wondering if you’d like to go to a museum with me tomorrow.

Dinosaurs…?

Art.

That would be alright.

 —

Day Two

Tatianna and I hop a train bound for New York City. We’re going to visit the Museum of Modern Art.  I finally had a kid with me; a pretty good excuse to check out the museums kids space – The Shape Lab.

Tell me, what do you enjoy about museums?

It’s exciting to be around things that are created by other people. I really like children’s museums because you can touch stuff.

Once we arrived at MOMA I got excited; she got excited.  As it turns out, there were very different reasons for our glee – Tatianna had never been through a revolving door before. Five revolutions later and we were ready to take on the Shape Lab.  She immediately makes a beeline toward the 3D shape magnetic wall.  The wall is broken down into four different stations where kids can explore how shapes are used in art. There are activity cards hanging next to each station, so I challenge her to finish all the activities listed.

 

After the Lab we go to some of the recommended kid spots:

This painting is titled One.  It was done by an artist named, Jackson Pollack.

Hey, he copied my style.

What do you think about this one, it’s called Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian? 

It’s making my eyes bleed together.

That’s about the time that Tatianna suggested that we walk through the permanent collection and rename pieces.  So we did, along with several guards.  

After about thirty mintues of renaming we were tired and hungry, so we decided to call it a day. But not before Tatianna recorded a message for the lovely MoMA employee, Kristen who’d been friendly to her during her stay at the Shape Lab.

You can see that and other video clips from our weekend with this link to our Vimeo account.

The Rain Room

Looks like I have another reason to visit the Rain Room over at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). We were lucky enough to have a preview of the room the night of the MoMA PS1 Expo1 Opening Party. But alas, we lost our shots. So we’re giving you some amazing shots that folks have been taking while inside Random International’s exhibit.

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The Rain Room at Moma

The Rain Room is interactive large-scale installation (the brainchild of London-based experimental collective Random International) – you step into this intense, expansive room with the roaring sound of rain coming down all around you, water flows continuously, yet the installation’s sensors detect your movements and shuts off the water around you – creating a magical effect, giving you the feel that you wield some control over the weather – not to mention, it makes for some pretty decent photo ops.

The exhibit runs until July 28th and is well worth the wait in line to experience.

image credit: artnerdnewyork, mymodernmet.