Female (Singapore) - - THE EXPERIMENTALISTS -

Age­nius to some, a freak to oth­ers, but say the name Bjork and one way or an­other, ev­ery­one has an opin­ion. While she might seem a niche choice for this Spring’s Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art (MOMA) block­buster ex­hi­bi­tion ( March 8-June 7, 2015), in re­al­ity, she’s a one-woman pow­er­house. Her fan base spans not just one genre and gen­er­a­tion, but mu­sic, art, fash­ion, film and photography through four decades.

Cannes 2000 Best Actress Award win­ner; 20-mil­lion-record-sell­ing artiste; Alexander McQueen muse; Ice­land’s Joan of Arc (dur­ing the nadir of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis in 2008, she set up a ven­ture cap­i­tal fund to save the coun­try’s econ­omy). You can’t be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­one – un­less, that is, you’re Bjork.

So what is it about this 50-year-old girl­woman, known for shrieks, coos and in­fa­mously lay­ing an egg on the Os­car red car­pet, that con­tin­ues to fas­ci­nate us all? In the 2003 BBC doc­u­men­tary In­side

Bjork, there’s El­ton John call­ing her “the only true in­no­va­tive artist out there in popular mu­sic”; su­per cu­ra­tor Hans-Ul­rich Obrist un­der­lin­ing her sig­nif­i­cance in push­ing for­ward vis­ual art as much as ex­per­i­men­tal sound; and not to men­tion the line-up of other lu­mi­nar­ies pro­fess­ing their ad­mi­ra­tion. Th­ese range from Ra­dio­head’s Thom Yorke to Missy El­liott, Sean Penn and direc­tor Lars von Trier.

It’s not just that the planet she lives on is so alien. A purist and a chameleon, her body of work jumps from one ex­treme to an­other. Yet what­ever the medium, the out­come is never short on so­phis­ti­ca­tion, provo­ca­tion and au­then­tic­ity.

Her big­gest hit to date, which came in 1995, is an anom­aly in her es­o­teric reper­toire. It’s Oh So Quiet is a peppy cover of ’ 40s blonde bomb­shell Betty Hut­ton’s 1951 B-side Blow a Fuse . Yet as happy-clappy as it may seem (com­plete with a video shot Broad­way mu­si­cal-style by Spike Jonze), it just wouldn’t be Bjork’s with­out that capri­cious touch. The song goes from hushed whis­pers to the blare of full-blown big band jazz and back, pep­pered with a cou­ple of her un­mis­tak­able shrieks. This is the clos­est the songstress has ever got­ten to main­stream. It is un­abashedly pop and, boy, did it suc­ceed, stay­ing in the UK charts for 15 weeks.

But as we know, Bjork is one pop princess who doesn’t care for MTV Video Mu­sic Awards (though the song re­ceived six nom­i­na­tions and won for “Best Chore­og­ra­phy”). She vir­tu­ally disowned the song by ex­clud­ing it from her 2002

Great­est Hits al­bum. “It was sort of a joke re­ally. It was a song (mu­sic direc­tor) Guy Sigsworth used to play on the bus when we were tour­ing. Ever since, I al­most re­gret it be­cause I wanted to put so much im­por­tance on mak­ing new mu­sic. If I put some­thing out in this world, it would be the courage to go ahead and in­vent things,” she told UK mu­sic mag­a­zine

Record Col­lec­tor.

Five al­bums and 16 years later, Bjork pro­duced her most re­cent and bar­rier­bust­ing al­bum yet. Bio­philia (2011) has been ex­alted by the pow­ers-that-be, from

Wired to Bri­tish mu­sic mag­a­zine Mojo, as “the fu­ture of the en­tire record in­dus­try” – a pretty hefty ac­co­lade, but hardly un­de­served for the world’s first app al­bum. Each track is ac­com­pa­nied by an app avail­able for down­load on iTunes. Here’s how Ap­ple de­scribes the al­bum’s mind­bog­gling mul­ti­me­dia mu­sic ex­pe­ri­ence: “Com­pris­ing a suite of orig­i­nal mu­sic and in­ter­ac­tive, ed­u­ca­tional art­works and mu­si­cal ar­ti­facts, Bio­philia is re­leased as 10 in-app ex­pe­ri­ences that are ac­cessed as you fly through a three-di­men­sional galaxy that ac­com­pa­nies the al­bum’s theme song Cos­mogony.”

As far as Bjork’s oth­er­worldly ven­tures go, it’s right up there. It also show­cases her ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity to not just bring pop into the avant-garde, but also pull the avant-garde into popular cul­ture.

It de­buted in the top 40 of ev­ery sin­gle world­wide chart it en­tered. Last sum­mer, MOMA an­nounced that the Bio­philia app would be the first down­load­able app in the mu­seum’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion. “With this lat­est al­bum, Bjork truly in­no­vated the way peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence mu­sic by let­ting them par­tic­i­pate in per­form­ing and mak­ing the mu­sic and vi­su­als, rather than just lis­ten­ing pas­sively,” said MOMA se­nior cu­ra­tor Paola An­tonelli.

The ex­hi­bi­tion open­ing this month con­nects the dots in Bjork’s trail­blaz­ing ca­reer, span­ning 20 years and her last seven al­bums. It chron­i­cles her own dar­ing out­put and col­lab­o­ra­tions with cre­atives con­sid­ered among this cen­tury’s great­est minds. Yet with all her al­bum art on dis­play, we are re­minded that her sta­tus as fash­ion mav­er­ick has been earned through a se­ries of images, each as cel­e­brated as the next. The most re­hashed fash­ion im­age of the singer is prob­a­bly that of her in Marjan Pe­joski’s swan dress at the 2001 Os­cars. It was voted the ninth most iconic red car­pet dress of all time in a 2008 poll pub­lished in the Daily T ele­graph, and re­cently reimag­ined by Valentino at its Spring 2014 cou­ture show.

There was the time Alexander McQueen dressed her in a ki­mono and di­rected Nick Knight to shoot her for the cover of her al­bum Ho­mogenic (1997). The time she wore a jacket crafted from air­mail en­ve­lope pa­per, de­signed by Hus­sein Cha­layan, for the cover of Post (1995). And the time uber-stylist Eu­gene Souleiman cre­ated a red wig re­sem­bling a ne­bula for the cover of Bio­philia, shot by cel­e­brated photography duo Inez van Lam­sweerde and Vi­noodh Matadin. “It’s about syn­chro­nis­ing what hap­pens in­side and out­side. I can’t re­lax un­less I look on the out­side the same as I feel in­side,” says the singer of her ap­proach to dress­ing.

Un­like too many im­age-mak­ers to­day, Bjork the icon is not a con­struct. She is as far as you can get from an Instagram star. She is about in­spi­ra­tion, not as­pi­ra­tion. She con­tin­ues to in­trigue not be­cause we want to look, dress or be like her. In­stead, she chal­lenges us, makes us think and want to reach for the stars.

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