Who hasn’t heard of songwriter, poet, composer, actress and singer Bjork at least once in their lifetime?
The MOMA dedicates a retrospective to the Icelandic born artist and her 20 year solo career, which started in 1993 with the album Debut and continues up to now with the just-released album Vulnicura in 2015. The exhibition, created by Klaus Biesenbach, chief curator-at-large of the MOMA and Director of the MoMA PS1, opened on March 8th and will end on June 7th 2015.
The Bjork retrospective is divided in four parts: first, in the lobby, the visitor sees large musical instruments created for her Biophilia album; moving up the stairs, one stands in line to see the video Black Lake which she especially created for the MOMA; after that, another line into another darkened room where several of her most iconic music videos are projected, such as Declare Independence (2008) and All is Full of Love (1997). The fourth and largest part is an installation called Songlines: a 40 minute winding path where the visitor, with the help of an audio guide, moves past the milestone projects of Bjork’s career; listening to her songs and poems while viewing her costumes, handwritten notebooks, hair styles and stage sets.
The exhibition was received with great disappointment among art critics: it was tagged as tacky, disjointed, unfinished, a waste of time, a rip-off and unworthy of such a transformative artist. The Economist compared the display of the artist’s costumes to an array that can be found at the Hard Rock Café or the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum; the New Yorker tagged it as “MOMA’s Embarrassing Bjork Crush”. Criticism largely focuses on the difficulty of absorbing any understanding from the whole show: the visitor has a short walk where some videos, costumes and scribbled poems are displayed without providing insight into the depth of the artist’s work. Little information is given on Bjork’s life and career, thus making it impossible to truly grasp the meaning of her eclectic art and when leaving the show, the question spontaneously arises: “Is that it?”
Bear in mind that the negative reviews are not targeted towards the artist herself, but to the organization of the exhibition, which demeans Bjork’s work and constitutes a surprising mistake from the prestigious MOMA. Curator Klaus Biesenbach had already approached the artist in 2000 for a retrospective and she had refused then; she probably should have refused this time as well.
This post is also available in: Italian