I first encounter with the collaboration between Bjork and Shoplifter is through Swide.com, an online magazine which gave me an unexpected glance of the hair sculpture that Shoplifter designed for Bjork’s performance in New York.
The two Iceland artists, one is a singer, one is an artist, combine the contemporary art ideas with fashion, design and music, taking viewers into the realm of a spiritual surreal world through synesthesia, a crossed sensory stimulus between visual and audial senses.
Several days ago, I downloaded one of the albums of Bjork, named Medulla. Her music combines electronic, alternative and acoustic instrumental. One unique character of her music is the vast use of the performance of acapella. Through this pure natural way of singing and her unique voice, the music seems to be stripped away from normality, leading us into a purified yet mythic world where the secret kingdom of Macbeth seems to be awakened through this audial stimulation. A sense of spiritual feeling of her voice runs into my ears like the quivering ocean wave and flows deep down into each of my blood veins, stimulating each microcell to move with her beat of rhythms. The solemn ecstasy is the ultimate sensation I feel through this journey of music, purified, sublime yet natural.
The unusual vocal performance of Bjork echoes with the unique unusual hairstyles designed by Hrafnhildur Arnardottir aka Shoplifter, who works crossing fields of hairstyle design, fashion design, painting and sculpture. She designs Bjork’s hairstyle in the cover photo of album Medulla. The physical cerebral quality of her sculptural hair design echoes with the title of the album. Medulla, as a biological form for the brains is visually represented in this hairstyle. On the other hand, the quasi feminist fetishism approach of the design seems to echo with the audial sensation of the album, with a sense of sublime temptation into a dangerous state of mind, wild yet boundless. The dual sensation of the hairstyle both recall the textual title and the audial sensation of the entire album, transforming the entire album into one compound art work with conceptual, audial and visual stimuli. These three sensory unite in one entity, making this album into a contemporary sculptural painting or painterly sculpture with audial devices.
Likewise, in another album produced in 2004, ‘Homogenic’, the album title borrows the term from biological science. The cover photo is designed by another great contemporary fashion designer: Alexander Macqueen. Macqueen transformed Bjork into a Japanese geisha figure dressing in kimono with floral patterns that flow from the kimono to the exterior background; the costume itself seems to be a painterly canvas that connects with the background behind. This liquid sense of design from my perspective, seems to indicate the feminine quality of the singer, through which the water is associated with females with its purified, tender textual.
At the same time, the vocal performance in this album takes another approach compared to the Medulla album: the vocal is more tender, more sensual and lyrical, in the song ‘All is full of love’, the melody echoing with the Eastern musical instruments, taking listeners into a world with traditional Japanese gardens, where the tea ceremony is being held, everything is rested in a silent elegancy, gentle and spiritual. This capture of eastern beauty standard for women echoes with the feminine depiction on the cover album, suggesting an oriental feminism approach. The title Homogenic might suggest the alternative idol of western feminism, which is an easternized depiction of alternative western feminist approach. Therefore, in this album, the conceptual, visual, vocal and audial sensory all echo in the same motif, transforming this album into a piece of art work, a depiction of oriental women with her sensual feelings and emotions. And this connection to emotionality puts this album into another peak or a post-minimalistic sensation, that is, an album or an art work with human emotions and textures. We can at the same time, see, hear and feel the deep emotion and aesthetic of the artists, however Alexander Macqueen’s or Bjork’s.
Bjork, with her music and correspondent fashion designs, thus taking us into various journeys from west to east, from ancient to contemporary. Across temporal and geographical space, we rest in a free sensational world that is stimulated by Bjork’s voice, music and her collaborative designs.