The Björk exhibit at New York's Museum of Modern Art was less a retrospective than a holy site of pilgrimage.
As I snaked my way through the audio-driven Songlines portion of Björk on Sunday (Mar. 8), eyeballing relics of the musician's past -- Marjan Pejoski's swan dress, the robots from the "All is Full of Love" video, notebooks full of handwritten lyrics -- in chronological order, I felt like I'd wandered into the tomb of a long-dead prophet, her life immortalized for future generations.
I don't mean that Björk's best work is behind her, but that it was super easy to forget that Björk is actually a real human being existing on our plane and not some divine being we were lucky enough to make contact with.
The "biographical narrative" written by Sjón playing in my headphones only heightened that recurring memory lapse. Narrator Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir speaks of "the Girl" who ventures back and forth from city to country, traditional to contemporary, trying endlessly to meld the opposing forces together.
Duality is a constant theme in Björk's work. Her latest album, 2015's Vulnicura, which explores her breakup with longtime partner Matthew Barney is no different.
"My soul torn apart/ My spirit is broken/ Into the fabric of all/ He is woven," she sings on "Black Lake," which was transformed into a sound and video installation for the MoMA retrospective. When your whole becomes a half, what becomes of you? For Björk, the answer lies in fortifying her strengths that Barney buried as weaknesses: "You fear my limitless emotions/ I'm bored of your apocalyptic obsessions."
The "Black Lake" video culminates with the musician spinning in the air as she sheds her transparent copper clothing like a snake skin. The visual mirrors the lyrics to another Vulnicura track, "Atom Dance":
We aim at peeling off
Dead layers of loveless love
No one is a lover alone
Most hearts fear their own home
Becoming themselves fully
It scares them off
I ended Songlines staring down a Björk mannequin dressed in the glossy blue Iris van Herpen dress from the Biophilia Tour. A projection of stars and galaxies whirred behind her. I wasn't looking at "the Girl" from the Songlines audio, but the Queen of the Cosmos. Björk had become herself fully, and I'll always prostrate myself before that kind of self-actualization.