At the press conference for the recent exhibition Björk Digital, which explored her experiments with digital technologies, Björk donned a mocap suit and answered questions as a real-time virtual avatar. The Icelandic artist’s experiments with VR and motion capture are just beginning, as today Björk released a new 2D teaser for her interactive VR film, Family.
Commissioned by Phoebe Greenberg and Penny Mancuso of Montréal’s Phi Centre and Red Bull Music Academy, Family finds Björk working with frequent collaborator Andrew Thomas Huang (director of Black Lake and "Stonemilker") for yet another digital branch from her Vulnicura album, which has emphasized immersive audiovisual experiences.
“The story of the piece is about a woman who journeyed to see the Icelandic landscape to sew herself back together through, out of heartbreak, towards transcendence and empowerment,” says Huang. “All the landscapes that you see in the piece are actual landscape scans of the sets that we shot in Black Lake. They‘re meaningful scans, they‘re not just any Icelandic environments…”
“You‘ll be traveling inside an embroidered piece designed by James Merry that‘s kind of like your magic carpet taking you through the world,” he notes. “We got actual motion-capture of Björk, so her presence is there in the piece.”
Huang recently did an interview with RBMA Daily, in which he said Family grew out of a series of conversations with Björk in September 2015, just as her MoMA exhibition—where Black Lake debuted—came to a close. Björk was on tour at the time, and the two discussed making the "Family" moving album cover into a full, “polished” VR experience.
“You want to be able to move around volitionally through a space, not just be stuck in one place,” Huang says. “In other headsets you can look around, but you’re kind of stuck as a passive viewer. Now you can walk around in a space that is one-to-one with the virtual space that you’re looking at.”
Despite his enthusiasm for VR, Huang doesn’t believe it’s truly a filmmaker’s medium. For him it is more spatial than the temporal medium that characterizes cinematic storytelling.
“Doing this last VR experience for Björk, in a way, played more to my strengths in that I could design the entire world, design all the objects and the set design of the world,” Huang says. “With a drawing and painting background, that’s something I can do quite easily. It’s really enriching, whereas shooting 360 video is more of a documentary-like workflow. For me, the 360 video is interesting because you are seeing the world captured as it is, untouched. Ideally with you erased.”
Family will make its debut at Montreal’s DHC/Art Foundation for Contemporary Art within the Björk Digital exhibition, which recently made its North American premiere. Björk Digital ends November 12th, and Björk fans can tune into RBMA Radio this Tuesday, October 25th to hear her DJ set live from 10-12 PM ET.
Click here to check out more of Björk’s audiovisual work.