Digital actuality stole my dance with Bjork
Most Bjorkness! That is what I got here in anticipating at MoMA PS1, the Museum of Trendy Artwork’s Queens-based mostly offshoot, the place the well-known musician/distressing fashionista’s new digital actuality exhibit is on show. “Stonemilker,” a lilting, melancholy monitor from her new album Vulnicura, is the idea for Bjork’s foray into VR. Contemplating the freaky identify — Stone milk? Gross. — the harrowing emotional material of her new document and the tech, you possibly can perceive why I arrived able to get bizarre.
This is identical person who turned the music “All is Filled with Love” right into a Chris Cunningham-directed video that forces you to confront the sexual nadir of the Uncanny Valley. That is the artist who helped Lars von Trier make a film a few singing blind lady that concurrently fills you with awe on the world’s magnificence and makes you need to die due to its cruelty. Now she’s made an album boldly chronicling the dissolution of her marriage to artist Matthew Barney and filtered that by means of digital actuality filmmaking? Signal me up.
A lot to my disappointment, nevertheless, the “Stonemilker” expertise is neither as unusual nor as harrowing as I might hoped it might be. It was lovely and intriguing, however it was additionally irreparably hindered by the inherent limitations of VR gear.
Contained in the Stonemilker exhibit at MoMA PS1.
Slightly than current an ethereal fantasy world of robotic women and techno-natural sprites, the exhibit itself feels virtually nostalgically acquainted once you enter. A small dome arrange simply inside PS1’s entry, it is sort of like a sturdier model of an elementary faculty planetarium, solely filled with hipsters as an alternative of youngsters. The room is darkish, save for a dusky picture of Iceland’s volcanic shoreline projected on the ceiling, and the mushy sound of waves crashing fills up the inside with out ever turning into too loud. It is inviting and heat, however nonetheless unusual and scary: an ideal environment for the music on Vulnicura. Within the middle are a collection of stools you are required to take a seat on so you possibly can spin round in 360 levels after strapping on a pair of sharp headphones and an Oculus Rift headset to enter “Stonemilker.”
The compulsion to bop together with her because the track goes on is nearly overwhelming. However no, you must stay seated on the stool.
Andrew Thomas Huang’s seven-minute digital actuality video for “Stonemilker” is definitely fairly pretty. Bjork herself stands earlier than you on the identical shoreline projected within the dome outdoors your helmet of know-how. Sporting a billowing inexperienced gown, she sings concerning the second when one individual in a relationship sees issues clearly and the opposite does not; when their potential to really feel modifications and blooms whereas their associate’s calcifies. She spins round you, and also you in flip spin round on the stool to comply with her, and earlier than lengthy she’s cut up into two and three individuals filling your view. Somewhat than a ghostly impact, all of it looks like dwelling within the second of a reminiscence. Was she standing subsequent to me whereas I appeared on the lighthouse within the distance or behind me? Might I see her when she described getting me to speak like “milking a stone?” Even the gauzy pixelation of the Oculus Rift’s screens — also known as the “display door impact” that newer fashions assist alleviate — makes the video really feel like one thing barely unreal.
Because the minutes clock by whereas the music dips and swells, although, the confines of that rattling stool begin to chaff the mind. I can solely spin round and attempt to comply with the singer as she dots the panorama, staring on the sky or blackened floor each from time to time to attempt to push on the edges of simply how far the know-how will let me go. Overlook strolling over to the place she’s standing or to the waves hitting the rocks. Lean too removed from middle and the picture begins to warp, Bjork’s face getting comically massive like a member of the Peanuts gang. The compulsion to bop together with her because the track goes on is nearly overwhelming. However no, you must stay seated on the stool.
Headdress artwork (is that what that’s?) from Bjork’s MoMA retrospective.
In fact it’s a must to sit on the stool! Even when Oculus’ tech did supply free roaming, which it does not, you’d nonetheless be locked to the stool. Not solely would supplying you with free reign over the seashore injury the choreography already in place, but in addition the exhibit area itself can be a nightmare! Think about bespectacled, bearded dudes and chicks in pastel-hued Lisa Loeb glasses bumping into one another left and proper, damaging the VR helmets and making a lawsuit quagmire for the museum within the course of. The stool permits for a coherent inventive imaginative and prescient and a protected viewers area even because it leaves you feeling trapped.
The argument could possibly be made that isolation is the purpose. “Stonemilker” is, in any case, a music about an ever-widening chasm between two individuals. The roles in VR work are nonetheless undefined, however whether or not you are a viewer, listener or participant right here, you are still all the time divorced from the performer. The multitude of Bjorks pirouetting round your fastened place brings that gulf into stark aid.
Intentional or not, “Stonemilker” does not fairly work. Any sort of emotional resonance created by your close to-separation from the work is drowned out by the bodily alienation of the know-how itself. Regardless, for followers of Bjork, it is nonetheless value a go to. “Stonemilker” continues to be a stunning track and the exhibit’s nonetheless a cool area even when the Bjorkness on show is not at additional power.
[Images: Andrew Thomas Huang (lede image); AFP/Getty Images (Bjork MoMA headdress); Matt Hawkins/Attract Mode (“Stonemilker” exhibit)]