Björk’s most infamous sartorial choice may be Marjan Pejoski’s Swan Dress, which she wore to the 2001 Oscars, but the singer’s collaboration with avant-garde couturiers goes much further than that. She was one of the first to sport the parametrically designed bodices of Iris van Herpen (above), and frequently wears van Herpen’s pieces onstage. The list goes on from there: Alexander McQueen, Commes des Garçons, Junya Watanabe and Viktor & Rolf are just a few of the trendsetting labels to be found in Björk’s very large closet.
When MTV began crediting music video directors onscreen in 1992, the era of superstar video directors began in earnest. Before long, artists including Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham and Floria Sigismondi were elevating videos from mere recordings of musical performances to elaborate short films with groundbreaking visual storytelling and special effects. From the beginning, Björk was at the centre of it all. Cunningham’s video for All is Full of Love combined live-action and computer-generated effects in a way that proved transformative for both the nascent technology and for Cunningham’s career, while Björk’s collaboration with Michel Gondry has resulted in over a half-dozen eye-popping videos – including what is without a doubt the most meta video of all time.
This week, Björk announced that the video for “Stonemilker” – the first single off her new album Vulnicura – will be viewable on the Oculus Rift. The Rift uses a head-mounted virtual reality display initially designed for video gamers, which immerses viewers in a 3D world, and requires video that is generated with 3D applications in mind. It’s not the first time Björk has forged her own way when distributing her work: her previous album, Biophilia, was released as an app in 2013. It went on to be the first app ever added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Of course, no look at Björk’s innovation is complete without mentioning her music – and here, she has always proven willing to experiment. Following the successes of the danceable, electronic-infused pop of Homogenic and instrumentally driven trip-hop of Vespertine, Björk did a complete 180, completing her 2004 album Medúlla using nothing but the sound of human voices, including beatboxers and Inuit throat singing. Biophilia and Vulnicura, her two most recent albums, present alternately jangling and ghostly pastiches of kinetic trip-hop beats, discordant strings and quavering vocals, producing uniquely evocative aural textures. Whether or not it’s your cup of tea, there’s no denying there’s nothing else out there quite like it.