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Björk Digital At The Reef, Sunday June 4th 2017

Björk Digital, presented by the LA Philharmonic, is the most immersive journey into Björk’s sonic and visual universe you will ever be able to experience. The exhibition features groundbreaking VR video works with music from Björk’s latest album, ‘Vulnicura’. The Icelandic wonder-elf is an artist completely apart, she doesn’t want you to listen to her music as you normally do, she wants you to experience it fully, enter the matrix, and at the same time, penetrate her heart, her body, her mouth.

I visited the exhibition the last day of its run on the West coast and, for someone who has very little experience with virtual reality, I found the tour fascinating and beyond intriguing. Is this the future? Will we be able to experience something like this on a daily basis in a few years? During concerts, movies or any form of entertainment? In this case, the future is a bit scary and as hallucinogenic as these orgasmic colors during the virtual reality of ‘Notget’.

The exhibit, which is visited in groups, goes crescendo into the virtual reality experience. First, they let you play a few minutes with Björk’s app Biophilia, just to remind you how innovative she has always been, the app was released in 2011 and let you navigate between music, nature and technology,. I enjoyed greatly the journey through the cell, but the real experience started in a very dark room with the video for ‘Black Lake’ or rather two slightly different versions of the video projected on two large screens. It was nothing compared to what was about to come but the experience was already intense: Björk is in front of you and behind you and her heart is beating loudly inside your own chest while blue lava invades her body and she walks barefoot through these incredible Icelandic green landscapes which are perfectly matching her mournful song. It’s still only cinematic but it’s also an organic experience, as you feel the wind when she shakes her hair and experience a violent beat every time she hits her chest with her fist.

The next steps allow you to go deeper into Björk’s world but you have to be ready to wear a heavy headset, plus headphones! And for this reason alone, I was happy that the videos were not lasting for more than a few minutes. Passed the strange and heavy equipment, the experience is absolutely amazing, it immersed me in an Icelandic landscape, with Björk in a fluo-lime dress dancing around me during the stunning string symphony of ‘Stonemilker’. Sitting on a pivoting stool, I ended up turning and turning to follow her dance on the black basalt beach. While turning around, I may have caught 2, 3 Bjork copies at the same time, and when I looked down, instead of seeing my feet, I only saw Bjork’s, walking on the black sand. It was a disorienting experience, and at the risk to feel dizzy after the trip, I asked for more. The next room transported me through the cosmos during the rough and disorienting electro beats of ‘Quicksand’. Björk was still there, singing but looking almost surreal, floating in space, being one with the cold universe and sending electric rays through the infinite space. It was difficult to realize what was going on, but this time, when I looked down, I just saw empty dark space and it looked very scary. ‘Mouth Mantra’ plunged me inside her mouth, which became another inner cosmos during the entire song.

But the last installations were the most amazing of all, especially ‘Family’ where i even got virtual arms. This was the next step, the jump into the matrix, a 3D virtual reality which felt like a sci-fi animation in Technicolor – the colors were so bright, dominated by yellow and pink. It started with a diamond-shaped vulva, and soon, a Björk avatar appeared, moving, dancing, singing, escaping my imagination, and I couldn’t decide if she was a real entity or an alien or a goddess. It was a VR dream, a portal toward another dimension, with multicolor threads, ribbons escaping from everything, and soon I realized I could make those from my own virtual arms. I wanted to catch Bjork, but she went through my own body, transparent and elusive like a spirit. ‘Noget’ was a similar installation, with Björk looking even more transparent and ghost-like, bright and walking under this blue sky, but looking invincible, while she was repeating ‘Love will keep all of us safe from death’. It was a glorious moment if you could forget about the heavy equipment, something totally possible for a 6-10 minute video. In the final room, they were showing videos from throughout the musician’s 24-year solo career, and I could have spent another 2 hours there.

Björk Digital is surely a unique, daring and pioneering exhibition, mixing more technology with art than you have ever imagined. Even though I could not completely focus the movie for ‘Stonemilker’ and I always had some problem to adjust to the heavy headsets, like many other people, this is a step toward another world, another way to experience art and music. At times, it still looked like a tech demonstration to me, or even a video game – should I have done anything with these virtual arms? – but the last two stations for ‘Family’ and ‘Notget’ did immerse me so much that I forgot about technology, and Bjork’s powerful art transcended everything at this moment.

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