(Photo: Danny Clinch / Courtesy of MoMA via source)
In our 24/7 world of everything-is-always-connected, an interesting philosophical backlash has been wending its way out of the ivory tower and taking a walk on the avant-garde side of the pop culture street.
In 1999, then-grad student Graham Harman wrote a doctoral dissertation focusing on the secret life of things. Tool-Being: Elements in a Theory of Objects (later revised and published as Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects), explored the idea that non-human things in and of themselves - not just as a cog in the increasingly complex matrix that is life today - have the right to exist beyond just how we perceive them and interact with them.
Rather, Harman explained, objects can "exceed every relation into which they might enter."
Object-oriented philosophy, as it was then dubbed, caught the attention of Timothy Morton, an offbeat professor of English at Rice University, who focuses on its eco-implications. Climate change, he has argued, is so massively-distributed in time and space as to transcend being localized; the term he coined for such things is hyperobjects.
Morton's work, in turn, inspired the singer/performance-artist Björk.
By "taking humans out of an anthropocentric world and equalizing them with animals, plants, dead material, poems, songs, magnetic forces, telepathy, energies, and images," explains Klaus Biesenbach, Director of PS1 and chief curator-at-large at New York's MoMA, there is no longer an difference between the subject doing the perceiving and the object being perceived. In fact, in spirited email exchanges, Morton and Björk ponder the idea that sometimes even the objects themselves are less important than how they relate to other objects.
Which, in the case of Björk, has long taken the form of various characters, which she visualized and brought to life by collaborating with a wide range of photographers and other visual artists from a variety of disciplines, including Juergen Teller, Stéphane Sednaoui and the Japanese fetish photographer Nobuyoshi Araki,
To try and capture the hyperinfluence of Björk, Biesenbach recently organized an impressive retrospective of her work thus far for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC. It draws from more than 20 years of her innovative projects and eight full-length albums, chronicling her career through sound, film, visuals, instruments, objects - including an exclusive 11-minute sound and video installation, commissioned by MoMA, for Black Lake, a song from Björk’s new album Vulnicura (2015) - and of course, fashion!
Highlights include 2001's Swan Dress by Marjan Pejoski’s (above left), Bernhard Willhelm on the 2990's Volta tour (right), Hussein Chalayan, Jeremy Scott and the Biophilia (2013) tour dress designed by Iris van Herpen (top).
Alexander McQueen was also a longtime collaborator with Björk, not only art-directing the cover of her album Homogenic (above right), but directing her video Alarm Call, which featured one of his fab frocks in this Björk meditation on surfaces - underwater, within forests and in meadows.
"Interestingly, independent from his collaborations with Björk, McQueen’s work was so much about surfaces that his celebrated exhibition, Savage Beauty, had a different surface in each of the exhibition rooms," continues Biesenbach. "McQueen was one of Björk’s most important collaborators...They were more than just collaborators: like many others who work with Björk repeatedly, they were also close friends, and Björk performed at his memorial service in London in 2011, wearing an angelwinged dress by the late designer." (image)
Björk will be on display from March 8–June 7, 2015 - info and tix at MoMA.org.
- Lesley Scott