“…I’m here to tell you that change is coming whether they like it or not…”
The goddess is refined, emanating from the center of her universe, a universe Björk didn’t create, but IS. She is vibration, a dust storm of drifting pollen within infinite space; she is the center. She advances like an explosive display of fireworks appearing and disappearing in colors; her palette is all that is esoteric, vibrant, otherworldly. Björk has no interest in winning you over, in pleasing or engaging in your mortal stories. She simply radiates; she has no choice, seducing without trying, as you’re called into her auric spectacle.
Her costume is creation, not worn for your pleasure or shock value but a cocoon from which to emanate. At once, looking like a pruned white poodle, clad in white tulle pompoms, or like the gossamer seedhead of a dandelion about to blow away, but doesn’t. Her costume (designed by French costumer Olivier Rousteing and Dutch designer Iris van Herpen) also contains her effulgence; least she morphs into oblivion, into pure energy.
Björk is change; she is changing; ageless at 56. She is the angry cry of the celestial realm, destroying as she creates, covering much of her 2017 release, “Utopia” as digital theater called “Cornucopia”: a sci-fi pop concert. “An optimistic proposal” on how the world can deal with global warming, she has said; a “postapocalyptic” future where “plants, birds, and humans will merge into a new mutant species,” where birds sound like synthesizers, synthesizers sound like flutes, flutes like birds…
Vibra Septet, seven flutists costumed like Pan’s nymphs with wooly goat legs or single butterfly wings, accompany all songs, except for Acappella choral pieces by Los Angeles based, “Tonality Choir” and percussive segments by the gifted Manu Delago. The flutists undulate and flutter about as part of the set throughout the 2-hour-long performance, complete with a pair of sexy bass flutes vaguely looking like stylized trombones.
During “Body Memory,” the most elaborate, jaw-dropping segment of the evening, the forest nymphs place Björk in the center of a ring. At first, the waist-high ring evokes a hoop-shirt but is surprisingly a circular flute played by four flutists kneeling in the cardinal directions with Björk singing from the center like its axle. Behind her, German designer Tobias Gremmler’s stunning digital visuals of bodies sensually morphing into feathery rays of light whirl and tumble through infinite, timeless space—erotically gruesome and seductively mesmerizing–before blasting into psychedelic rust-colored particles.
Chiara Stephenson stage design, inspired by fungi, makes excellent use of a rope-like scrim that catches projections, reveals background performances, or parts like the sea, adding telescopic perspectives and dimensions that distort the boundaries of the stage. As part of her design, is an egg-shaped reverb chamber that allows Björk to escape from the same chaos she’s created around her. There she and one of the flutists perform from at various times. This iconic feminine egg shape and chamber also resembles the cocoon where Björk typically creates music. Argentine film director, screenwriter, and producer Lucrecia Martel directed the extravaganza that Björk created all of the musical arrangements for. Yet, with most music having flute accompaniment and equally similar vocal intensity and limited range, the setlist of 19 songs seems like one anthem, losing nuance and the variety of her studio recordings. “Hidden Place” is one such casualty; a haunting piece known for its etheric musicality loses its eeriness when sung acapella by a casual, upbeat choir. The few real breaks from this melding comes with “Blissing Me,” her rhythmic duet with “serpentwithfeet” (Josiah Wise) and the encore of “Future Forever.”
The goddess is refined; the feminine is inclusive, communal, global… Björk has said, Cornucopia “is a lot about females supporting each other.” The goddess is righteous in her cause; she has summoned her battalions from around the world, including our contemporary Joan of Arc, 16-year-old Swedish climate-change activist Greta Thunberg who brings the performance to a close. Speaking in a stark video message that shimmers on the rope-like scrim in black and white, the stage and audience are silent; she is without a costume, without affectation. Her unadorned words distill the entire performance to simple sword-sharp truths.
“We are about to sacrifice our civilization for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. The biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. But it’s the suffering of the many which pays for the luxuries of a few…You say you love your children above all else, and yet you’re stealing their future in front of their very eyes. Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis … And if the solutions within this system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. They have run out of excuses, and we are running out of time. But I’m here to tell you that change is coming, whether they like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”
“Nature will still offer energy, optimism and life. She always finds a way”, says force-of-nature, Björk. With “Cornucopia,” she is changing the system theatrically, spatially, cosmically…yet, again.
David e. Moreno