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The Post-Post-Modern Things: Björk, Kathy Acker, and the Astral-Disappearing Act (3-6/53)

3. Reproducing visual images on distant screens through the “natural” magic of electricity helps to precipitate a Robert Smigel “Fun with Real Audio” segment of “TV Funhouse” (on the March 17, 2003 episode of Saturday Night Live). The segment features a cartoon Björk inhabiting an alive and increasingly irate swan dress while singing her Oscar-nominated song “I’ve See it All” from the Dancer in the Dark soundtrack: The swan dress hatches two babies that the outré Björk clips on as earrings.  The swan steals a granola bar from an audience member, swallows, regurgitates, and attempts to feed not only the babies that are now Björk’s earrings, but also Björk herself, who refuses the sustenance, apparently engrossed in the rhythms of her song.

4. Stephanie Bunbury writes of Björk’s aversion to the music business, identifying what Björk calls “the clever shit,” where “the record business and media and having to say things that sound sensible but have nothing to do with music, which (Björk) believes is a matter of pure instinct.”  She adds that Björk thinks music is “the biggest opposite of pure logic, which is why it’s so brilliant.”[1] As a “mid-level” artist in terms of sales, Björk seems to participate somewhat grudgingly in the artist whoring required by the media machine.  Responding to a Rolling Stone query about a recent in-store appearance, shorthanded by “RS” to “in-store,” Björk expounds on the punk sensibility that rejects such media spectacles:  “We believed in the whole thing about anarchy and everybody is equal, the rule of the majority and how on earth are you supposed to change one person’s life when somebody else scribbles their name on a paper card?”[2] Björk’s manager Scott Rodger puts it another way: “America is very MTV- and radio-driven, and Björk doesn’t make records for either MTV or for radio.”[3]

5. Before long, the cartoon swan suit, now malevolent, wrestles a gun away from Charlton Heston and a few other generic-looking Hollywood types who have rushed the stage.  Björk continues to sing, and Kevin Spacey presents an Oscar to Julia Roberts as gunshots ring in the background.  Finally, the swan dress, now completely in control of the cartoon awards show, allows Björk to brandish a “Free Tibet” sign for the camera, somehow linking the lunacy of this irate animal to the exotic swan-woman who sympathizes with the cause celebre of Richard Gere, The Beastie Boys, and Radiohead.

6. “Will I complete the mystery of my flesh?” the “real” Björk asks on the track “Sun in my Mouth” from her Vespertine album (2001).  Poststructuralist philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari offer a tentative answer in Sigmund Freud’s famous patient, convinced that his bowels were linked divinely to the sun:  “For every organ-machine, an energy-machine: all the time, flows and interruptions.  Judge Schreber has sunbeams in his ass.  A solar anus. . . . Judge Schreber feels something, produces something. . . . Something is produced: the effects of a machine, not mere metaphors.”[4] Take Björk’s “Pagan Poetry” video (from Vespertine)—shown in movie theaters before the start of Richard Linklater’s bio-animated 2001 feature, Waking Life. The mold of Björk’s body morphs between pearl-pierced flesh and pulsating, animated matter, where “the pearls (are) as jewellery [sic] but also mutilation.”[5] The “secret code carved” by the cut of the lyric, situates the (visual) programming of the technical world—the universe of science that manipulates codes and digits—into the papyrus of flesh that consummates the comparison between the realms of ephemeral desire and physical organism.  For Björk, the reconciliation of flesh and spirit lies in the colossal flesh-punctures “produced” by the video, as well as in the uses of technology (both “simple” piercing and “complex” digital imaging) that apparently resists the regimes of the corporate/economic machine.  As one fan writes, “there was a big late-90s transition from images and philosophies of technology and electronics as cold, precise, robotic to becoming interest in how closely they could mesh with micro-scale biology.”[6] The sun enters the scene with programmed care, riding the bowels on a Björkian “luminous beam.”


[1] Stephanie Bunbury, “Beyond Björk,” Sydney Morning Herald, 1 March 1996, reprinted in Björkland, <http://www.flexdax.org/m-net/Björkland/r-beyondbjork.shtml> (3 September 2003).

[2] “The Big Meltdown,” RollingStone.com, January 1997. 18 February 2005. <http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/_/id/5926243/bjork?pageid=rs.ArtistArticles&pageregion=mainRegion>.

[3] Cromelin, Richard.  “Icelandic Wonder Straight Ahead.”  Los Angeles Times, 22 May 1998: F2, reprinted in Bjork Interviews, <http://home.westbrabant.net/~sinned/d42.htm> (12 October 2003).

[4] Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, “Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia,” in From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology, ed. Lawrence Cahoone (Great Britain: Blackwell, 2000), 402.

[5] Michael Dieter, <mdieter@hotmail.com> “The Abject-Björk, Matmos, Herbert,” Greenspun.com: Lusenet, 22 May 2002, <http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=009B6x>  (5 Dec. 2002).

[6] nabisco%%, <Nabisco%%@hotmail.com> “The Abject-Björk,  Matmos, Herbert,” Greenspun.com: Lusenet, 22 May 2002, <http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=009B6x>  (5 Dec. 2002).

Davis Schneiderman is a multimedia artist and writer and the author or editor of eight print and audio works, including the novels Drain, Abecedarium, and Blank; the co-edited collections Retaking the Universe: William S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game; as well as the audio-collage Memorials to Future Catastrophes. His first short story collection, there is no appropriate #emoji—with collaborations from Lance Olsen, Cris Mazza, Kelly Haramis, Stacy Levine, Tim Guthrie, Andi Olsen, and Megan Milks—will be released in Fall 2019.

His work has also appeared in numerous publications, including Fiction International, The Chicago Tribune, The Iowa Review, and TriQuarterly.

He is Krebs Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Lake Forest College.

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