Björk ‘Biophilia’ – Interactivity & intersections between science within the “public sphere”

Icelandic songstress & multimedia artist Björk is the queen of weird and wacky hybrid musical explorations. In 2011, Björk released her album Biophillia, a multimedia presentation encompassing music, apps, Internet, installations, and eccentric live shows (wonderfully weird and wacky!).

The idea behind this album was to draw together science, nature, music and technology in a new method of visualisation. Björk calls it a “meditation on the relationship between music, nature and technology”. Using new technologies like the iPad, the final album was complimented by ten separate iPad apps, all housed within one “mother” app. Each of the smaller apps relate to a different track from the album, and allow people to explore and interact with the song’s, their themes of science, nature and the cosmos, and even to visually reconfigure a new version of a track themselves. The viewers are directly inserted into the visualisation process, an innovative aspect of new media types which can create strong emotive links to a subject through playing on different cognitive senses.

Johnathon Crary would say this project is a new publishing device with ‘points of intersection where philosophical, scientific, and aesthetic discourses overlap with mechanical techniques, institutional requirements, and socioeconomic forces‘. Biophillia is an interesting example of visualization in the communication of science & nature within the “public sphere” using music as the medium and technology as a complimentary distributive device.

Interesting to also mention is that the live performances which accompany Biophillia, feature a range of specially-conceived and crafted instruments, among them a Tesla coil, a bespoke pipe organ that accepts digital information to create musical patterns. (WONDERFULLY WEIRD) Another example of how data is being used today.

Finally, and absolutely worth a mention, is that David Attenborough is one of the project collaborators, providing his well-known voice for the introduction app in the series of complimentary song apps. The documentary kingpin is the perfect narrator to start us off in the multimedia experience that is Biophillia, where science communication is given an innovative spin through music and user interactivity.

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