Published November 2, 2016
Everything is big during airwaves. The music. The crowds. The drinking. Nights become mornings become nights, is the world spinning faster or are you moving more slowly? Welcome to the blur.
Björk Digital opens TODAY at Harpa. At first we thought it will be a nice way to spend an afternoon, to take a breather, experience some air, some art; find clarity in the whirlwind. It’s not. Björk Digital is a full on experience. This is not your hangover day activity. Go to the pool for that.
It starts with Black Lake. The group of 20 are ushered into a rectangle room draped in black curtains, with hanging screens that span the long-sides. Beneath the hanging screens are ten massive standing sub-bass speakers, as tall as the crowd, for the soundscape specially designed by Marco Perry for Immersive Audio Ltd. Two different cuts of the film are shown on either side; viewers necks crane and twist, back and forth, like watching a ping pong game of gods. The experience is partly directed by sight and the other part by sound. At times Björk appears on one screen and disappears from the other, meanwhile her voice drifts across the room with her.
It’s as immersive as I’ve ever known, but as far as technology goes it gets swiftly dwarfed by the next room we enter. 20 rotating stools, each host to a pair of VR goggles and headphones, are arranged against the floor-to-ceiling windows over the grey Atlantic. We enter a black beach on Seltjanarnes—I spare you the details because one: you have probably seen photos by now, and two: it’s not made to be described by letters on a page. The “Stonemilker” video that we enter was created on an impulse, the crew was busy working on another project when the director, Andrew Huang, brought out a 360-degree camera prototype that he had brought along from New York. And so, in a single night’s shoot, the first VR exhibit of Björk Digital was born.
As viewers make their way from “Stonemilker” to “Mouth Mantra,” “Quicksand,” “Notget” and finally to the premier of “Family,” the technology and the viewers roles deepen. The immersion is intensified, more convincing. By the final piece the stools have been eliminated, the VR headsets hang from the ceilings and viewers carry remote sensors in their hands that track your arms and allow you to play with the elements in your temporary reality. For those dangerously susceptible to dizziness, vertigo, or who have a fear of heights, I cannot recommend this exhibit with full confidence. For the rest, there is no excuse not to join.
Björk Digital will be open to visit through December 10. Tickets and more information can be found on Harpa’s website.