Bjork in Eden, Summer 2018

Bjork at the Eden Project in Cornwall – a botanical match made in Heaven from concept to performance. 

Bjork has always been passionate about the environment, spearheading several campaigns to protect her native Iceland from over-development. Today, the Eden project is an oasis for transformational thinking; it’s self-proclaimed aims being to connect people to each other and their natural environment, in order to better understand, respect and take care of our planet.

On a warm Summer evening the walk down into the old quarry basin within which the Eden Project sits, is a perfect start to the journey. The path curves down from the entrance to reveal the evening sun bouncing off two giant glass biomes and a host of gardens and art installations. These are all open throughout the evening, allowing the audience to wander through oasis after oasis and feel slightly unearthly and ethereal even before they lay eyes on Bjork.

As the show starts, the stage lights up to reveal another, if slightly more surreal and futuristic on-stage garden. Bjork arises from a garish revolving vulva-shaped flower throne, in a neon mesh and wire dress with a mask described as an ‘orchid bone fungus’ by its maker, fit for a wedding cake decoration. The look is reminiscent of a raving flower head. She is joined by an Icelandic septet of female flautists called Viibra, a harpist whose sounds are heard crisply throughout, and on a podium behind giant inflatable roses stands a guy in a tracksuit, commanding the beats and the glitchy sounds that Bjork weaves seamlessly into much of her music.

Bjork’s movements and voice mesmerise us as she meanders through her most recent album, appropriately named Utopia. Looking back at the audience, everyone is exactly that – mesmerised. Compared to other shows in this iconic setting there is a silence, stillness and absolute concentration rarely seen. This is fitting, since the first four songs are downbeat and full of melody, birdsong and electronic soundscape; almost classical. 

During ‘The Gate’, with pauses in the music, the quality of her voice is demonstrated as flawless. The flautists add to the feeling of being lullabied into a Dionysiun fairy dream world, dressed in pink silky outfits and floral headdresses. Behind the stage, screens show time-lapse footage of beautiful flowers blooming and decaying in time to the music, alongside Bjork’s lyrical serenade to a plant’s growth. 

This is all atmospherically back-dropped by coloured lighting in the biomes that cleverly match the lighting on stage. During some of the songs, we can’t make out the lyrics, during others the words and messages are clear: feminism – during ‘Tabula Rasa’ a cheer from the front could be heard after “It is time for us women to …not just take it lying down!”, parenthood – the struggle of not passing our f**cked-upness onto our children, and relationship breakdowns. 

The bass and the beat kick in with ‘Isobel’ and ‘Human Behaviour’ and the crowd begin to bob to the dubstep-inspiring old favourites. The delicate flautists join in and have a right rave up amongst the foliage. The visuals turn from natural history to mind-blowing 3D digital animation and the bass vibrates through us to bring us back into reality. Later it returns to tracks from Utopia and the end of the set is again more contemplative, leaving us all with the feeling that we’ve been to a truly meaningful performance rather than just a gig as we slowly and contently meander back up the hill away from Bjork’s and Eden’s utopia.

Rhiannon White and Kali Potiszil

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