As a DJ, Björk is a stunning virtual reality experience.
The iconic producer of lush music and complex visual worlds premiered her new virtual reality exhibition, Björk Digital, at Carriage Works in Sydney, Australia on Friday and Saturday with a DJ set of more than five hours.
Tucked into the corner of a carnivorous hall Saturday night rather than on a stage, the singer was surrounded by plants and barely visible, except to those who managed to elbow their way to the front. Others tried to spy her through the magnifying powers of their smartphone camera.
The difficulty of catching a glimpse of Björk, further shielded behind a jewel-studded mask, prompted rumours in the crowd she was not present at all. For her languidly dancing fans, this seemed acceptable — if Björk had sent a doppelgänger, she would have her own, spiritual reasons.
She was there, in fact, but using a virtual reality headset to see her proved a more intimate experience than listening to real-life Björk, who was making slightly uncomfortable transitions from Jeremih to industrial house amid a kitsch light show.
Long lines and crowds meant it was difficult to get hands on with much of what was on display, but the premiere of the new virtual reality experience — “Notget” by Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones — went some way toward making up for the feeling of Björk’s absence.
During “Notget,” an intricate, anxious gem of a song from her most recent album, Vulnicura, the HTC Vive virtual reality system and headset tracks the viewer throughout a square of the room, allowing you to move around the experience and for it to react to your presence.
Unlike the distance security guards maintained between Björk and her audience, “Notget” takes you face to face with the singer, although in an unusual form.
At first, a ghostly outline of Björk with glowing yellow eyes marches and dances in a womb-like space. Viewers can walk around her, but step inside her body and thousands of winking particles explode. As the relentless drumbeat of the song continues, the figure grows and towers until standing inside it is almost inescapable.
While not as crisp or detailed visually as other experiences offered on HTC Vive, “Notget” does feel like it came straight from Björk’s imagination to your eyes.
That’s likely what most of the audience paid more than A$100 to experience — not a confusing DJ set in an anonymous dance hall, but a chance to commune with an artist whose creative output through music, fine arts and technology has been so rich.
Björk Digital also features four other digital experiences. Visitors can also see Björk’s dramatic “Black Lake” music video made by Andrew Thomas Huang for the Museum of Modern Art, as well as use the virtual reality headsets to enter two previously released virtual reality experiences, “Stonemilker VR” and “Mouthmantra VR.”
Another two rooms allow visitors to play with apps and musical instruments from Björk’s Biophilia science education project, as well as watch a reel of some of her most groundbreaking music videos.
The premiere’s DJ sets and odd staging aside, Björk Digital offers a glimpse of what the future merging of art and virtual reality could offer — a chance to wallow in the mind of your most beloved artists.