Björk Digital

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Poster for Björk Digital

Björk Digital is an “immersive”[1] virtual reality exhibit by Icelandic musician Björk featuring 360-degree VR music videos from her eighth studio album, Vulnicura. The exhibit debuted at Carriageworks in Sydney, Australia as part of the Vivid Sydney festival on 4 June 2016 and has traveled across the globe to Tokyo, London, Mexico City, Los Angeles, and other cities around the globe. Originally announced as an 18 month tour[2], the exhibit ran for just over 2 years.

Björk has promoted the traveling exhibit with a series of opening night DJ sets and intimate, orchestral, strings-only concerts, premiering at London’s famous Royal Albert Hall on 21 September 2016. Her debut at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, took place on 30 May 2017.

Björk Digital is expected to be released on a wide variety of VR platforms as well as Apple and Android devices. The release date has not yet been announced.

Background and development[edit]

Björk first began experimenting with virtual reality technology in 2014 when she and director Andrew Thomas Hang made “Stonemilker”, the first song from the singer's critically acclaimed 2015 album Vulnicura. “I feel the chronological narrative of the album is ideal for the private circus virtual reality is,” Björk said, calling VR, “a theatre able to capture the emotional landscape of (Vulnicura)."

90 Samsung Gear VR headsets were utilized for Björk Digital, and the VR project was ported to 60 HTC Vive “for a more immersive experience that comes with full room tracking.” The experience was developed by her label One Little Indian Records in association with 3rd Space Agency[3] and Manchester International Festival.

On 17 March 2016 Björk Digital was announced as one of the headlining events at Vivid Sydney 2016,[4][5] an annual music and arts festival in Sydney, Australia. In addition, Vivid Sydney announced that Björk herself would DJ the opening night party of the VR exhibit on 3 June 2016. Tickets to the opening night DJ set quickly sold out, leading to a second DJ set being added for the following day.[6]

A "work in progress",[7] Björk Digital premiered, free of charge, to Vivid Sydney attendees at Carriageworks with 4 virtual reality music videos. Carried over from 2015’s Museum of Modern Art Björk retrospective was the MoMA commissioned “Black Lake” video installation. Another previously available VR experience, “Stonemilker”, was also on display. Two VR music videos premiered at Carriageworks: “Mouth Mantra,” which had its 2D debut at the end of 2015, and “Notget” though in an unfinished form. The final “Notget” video would not be complete until September 2016.

Björk Digital borrows additional elements from the 2015 Björk retrospective, specifically the “Cinema” room showcasing the majority of the singer’s music videos from 1993-2015 in HD and the “Biophilia” room with several touchscreen devices loaded with the apps from Björk’s 2011 album, Biophilia. Unlike MoMA’s show, however, the innovative and unique instruments created and utilized for Biophilia were not on display.

Björk Digital ran in Sydney from 4 June 2016 to 18 June 2016 before making its second stop in Tokyo, Japan at Miraikan, which previously hosted Björk’s Biophilia Tokyo residency in 2013. No new VR videos were added though Björk again played an opening night DJ set on 29 June, with an encore set the following night. Björk Digital ran in Tokyo from 29 June 2016 to 18 July 2016. During the Miraikan residency, Björk made history by featuring in the world's first ever virtual reality live stream,[8] broadcast on YouTube. She gave a live performance of Vulnicura's final song, "Quicksand", and the footage was later incorporated into the "Quicksand" VR experience which debuted months later.

The next stop for Björk Digital was London, England.[9] News of the VR exhibit’s arrival in Europe was eclipsed by the announcement of a special acoustic, strings-only concert at the Royal Albert Hall.[10][11] Tickets quickly sold out, prompting a second acoustic concert at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith.[12]

Björk Digital opened at the Somerset House in London on 1 September 2016 and ran until 23 October 2016. Björk made broadcast history by streaming herself as her virtual reality avatar into the press interview using the latest real time technology from Unity and Autodesk, hosted by director of Somerset House Jonathan Reekie[13]

The final version of “Notget” premiered at Somerset House, but during the opening night party VIP guests were given the opportunity to see the work-in-progress version of the “Family” VR experience. Björk made her debut at the Royal Albert Hall on 21 September 2016. Her performance earned rave reviews,[14][15][16] with The Telegraph writing, "The tension between the rawness of the emotion, the alluring beauty of the string arrangements and the formal elegance of the classical presentation was utterly hypnotic." The Hammersmith show took place a few days later, on 24 September and was equally well received.[17]

Björk Digital next traveled to Montreal, Canada[18] for the Red Bull Music Academy festival where 2 additional VR videos were unveiled: “Quicksand” and “Family”, the latter having been co-commissioned by the Red Bull Music Academy. Björk did not perform live in Montreal but she gave 2 DJ sets during the middle of the exhibit’s run. Björk Digital opened in Montreal on 15 October 2016 and ran until 12 November.

Björk next took the VR exhibit to her native Iceland[19] where she also announced 2 acoustic concerts to be held at Harpa.[20] The first of these concerts, on 5 November 2016, was part of the Iceland Airwaves festival. Björk Digital ran from 2 November to 30 December 2016. Björk Digital made its North American debut in Houston, Texas during the Day for Night festival[21] from 16–18 December 2016. Björk DJ’d on the 16th and 18th.

After a few months’ hiatus, Björk Digital made its debut in Mexico on 21 March 2017. Björk held another acoustic concert at Mexico City’s 10,000 seat Auditorio Nacional on 29 March. Björk played a second date in Mexico, this time in Toluca, on 2 April 2017 as part of the Ceremonia Festival. DJ and Vulnicura co-producer Arca joined Björk on stage for a strings-and-beats concert similar to her 2015 Vulnicura Tour sets. Ceremonia was almost cancelled due to poor weather but was pushed back a day in a scaled back form.[22] Björk Digital ran in Mexico City at the Fotomuseo Cuatro Caminos until 7 May 2017.

On 6 March 2017 it was announced that Björk would bring her VR exhibit to Los Angeles[23] with a special debut performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall scheduled for 30 May 2017, where the singer announced on stage that it would be her final Vulnicura concert.[24] Björk Digital played at the Magic Box at the Reef in Downtown LA from 19 May to 4 June 2017. Her long-awaited songbook, 34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste, Björk's first ever collection of sheet music for her songs, was available early exclusively at the LA Björk Digital gift shop several weeks ahead of its official release date.[25]

One month after its time in Los Angeles, Björk Digital traveled to Barcelona for the 2017 Sónar Festival, where the singer celebrated the opening night with a 4-hour DJ set at Fira Montjuïc’s SonarHall stage.[26] The VR show is expected to run from 14 July to 24 September 2017 at Barcelona’s Centre for Contemporary Culture.[27] Additionally, Björk also gave a talk at Sónar + D, a congress of digital culture and creative technologies, which in 2017 will focus on the latest advances in artificial intelligence and virtual reality applied to the arts.[28]

On 19 September 2017, Björk Digital had its official opening in Russia, at the 7th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art.[29][30] The show ran for 4 months and was housed at the New Tretyakov Gallery. Björk Digital played alongside work from American artist Matthew Barney, whose breakup with Björk is the focus of much of the material from the digital VR show.

On 20 September 2017, Björk Digital played at the 2017 Ciudad Emergente festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina for 4 days and then continued in the city until the 30 December.[31] It ran alongside the Michel Gondry exhibition "Usina de Peliculas Amateurs". Three days later, Björk Digital continued its South America run as part of the Colombia 4.0 festival in the capital city of Bogotá. The show was free to the public.[32] The VR show is then expected to travel to Poznań, Poland for the 11th annual Arts & Fashion Forum.[33] It ran from 3 October to 31 October 2017.

Björk Digital returned to Mexico City, this time at the Centro Nacional de les Artes, on 22 March 2018 and played until 24 June the same year.[34]

Vulnicura VR app[edit]

On 24 September 2018, Music Week published an interview with Andrew Melchior, founder of 3rd Space Agency and technical adviser on Björk Digital, where he said that the full Vulnicura VR album will be out before Christmas 2018 via One Little Indian and will be available across all VR platforms.[35]

Tour dates[edit]

Dates City Country Venue
4–18 June 2016[A] Sydney Australia Carriageworks
29 June - 18 July 2016 Tokyo Japan Miraikan
1 Sept - 23 Oct 2016 London England Somerset House
15 Oct - 12 Nov 2016[B] Montreal Canada DHC/ART Fondation pour l'art contemporain
2 Nov - 30 Dec 2016 Reykjavik Iceland Harpa
16 Dec - 18 Dec 2016[C] Houston, TX United States Barbara Jordan Post Office
21 March - 7 May 2017 Mexico City Mexico Fotomuseo Cuatro Caminos By Grupo Sentido
19 May - 4 June 2017[D] Los Angeles, CA United States Magic Box at the Reef
14 July - 24 Sept 2017[E] Barcelona Spain Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB)
19 Sept 2017 - 12 Jan 2018[F] Moscow Russia New Tretyakov Gallery
20 Sept - 24 Sept 2017[G] Buenos Aires Argentina Usina del Arte By Grupo Sentido
23 Sept - 8 October 2017[H] Bogotá Colombia Corferias By Grupo Sentido
03 Oct - 31 Oct 2017[I] Poznań Poland Stary Browar
22 March - 24 June 2018 Mexico City Mexico Centro Nacional de les Artes By Grupo Sentido
Notes