A Behind-The-Scenes Look At Björk's Latest Music Video, "Wanderlust", Which Was Recently Showcased In New York, USA
A brainwavez.org Cultural Expedition

South Africaby Ambre Nicolson
Posted: 29 May 2008

If you went down to the waterfront recently you were in for a big surprise. Björk was to be seen surfing down a mythical river of electric blue spaghetti, atop a giant yak. The occasion? The premiere of her new 3D music video, "Wanderlust".

Bjork - WanderlustThe screening took place at Deitch Studios, a fashionably post-industrial space perched on the edge of the East River and overlooking the Manhattan skyline. But although the city was all lit up and ready to shine, those gathered were more interested in the view indoors.

And for good reason. In a cavernous white warehouse room an array of props from the video was on display. Finely rendered production paintings, a shaggy felt yak and a large model of Björk were all on view for the diverse crowd. Björk herself was present for the VIP event, along with the likes of dancer Viva Ruiz and Antony Hegarty of Antony And The Johnsons. On the following two evenings the audience featured a mix of the young and upwardly artsy, as well as music and film industry types, hardcore Björk fans and those curious enough to get to the brink of Brooklyn on a cold night. The video was shown to small groups of the audience every 15 minutes - after collecting your pair of 3D visors you were ushered into a darkened room before a wall-sized screen lit up and the first strains of "Wanderlust" emanated from surround-sound speakers.

Bjork - Wanderlust

Directed by the Encyclopedia Pictura duo of Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch, they of the famed "Knife" video for Grizzly Bear, "Wanderlust" was created using a custom-made 3D stereoscopic camera rig and a combination of live action, mechanical puppets, scale models and animation. Saxon and Hellfritsch (both 25) rose to prominence in San Francisco. In their own words Encyclopedia Pictura is "a congealed version of Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch ... They are interested in virtual reality, psychokinetic energy, anarcho-primitivism, clowning, cryptozoology, natural geometry, psychedelic shamanism, and fruit sandwiches."

Saxon and Hellfritsch built the camera rig by hand, both due to budgetary constraints and to fit within the artistic restraints they set themselves for the video. They first created a 3D model of the rig in a CAD program and then assembled it from individual components including a Silicon Imaging 2K Mini camera and super wide-angle lenses placed specific distances apart. This creates a 3D effect similar to that perceived by the human eye. As Saxon explained in an interview with website Studio Daily, "Basically you are recreating the distance between human eyes. So the general setting is keeping the cameras 2.5 inches (six centimetres) apart. But if you are shooting things closer than 10 feet (three metres) you have to put the cameras closer together. If you are shooting scale models like we were the cameras must be closer together than physically possible so for that you use a beam splitter. The technology behind that is pretty old and we built our own beam splitter." Although it may sound like something out of Star Trek, a beam splitter in fact turns out to be a thin 2mm (0.078 inch) piece of glass that has a titanium coating on it. This enables the visible light spectrum to pass through it and be reflected by it, which in turns allows two cameras to shoot the same image. When one camera is offset very slightly it creates a "layer", which in turn creates the effect of 3D.

Bjork - Wanderlust

Special anaglyph visors are then required to view the video in 3D, although it is possible to watch the 3D video as a 2D version. The 3D effect is created using heavy colour compression, with warmer colours appearing closer and cooler colours receding into the distance.

Bjork - Wanderlust

The video features Björk as a puckish and primitive shepherdess, intent on guiding a herd of large woolly yaks through a snowy Himalayan landscape. According to The New York Times, when first approached by Björk Saxon and Hellfritsch gained inspiration by listening to Björk's "Wanderlust" video while in nature and under the influence of psychedelic mushrooms. In Saxon's own words, "We went into ritual artistic psychosis mode, where we went to nature and tried to invoke this thing that came out. It involved using psilocybin mushrooms. I can't really elaborate on the full weight of that experience because it doesn't translate back into language."

Drawn from her album Volta, "Wanderlust" bears all the trademarks of Björk's eerily rasping voice and odd but beautiful lyrics. As a whole Björk has described the Volta album as: "techno voodoo", "pagan", "tribal", and "extroverted". It is a diverse album incorporating electronic beats, African music and even a Chinese lute. According to Björk "Wanderlust' is the album's "manifesto" song, at different times lilting, longing, tempestuous and rhythmic. The song, as with all of Björk's work, is not made to be summarised easily but it is certainly a lament of freedom and perhaps a paen to the unknown.

Bjork - Wanderlust

As she sings: "Lust for comfort // Suffocates the soul // Relentless restlessness // Liberates me" we see her on the back of a yak, travelling down a fast-flowing river of braided, electric blue water. The 3D effect in the video is startlingly vivid, giving depth to the landscape and the sudden desire for the audience to duck as objects flash past on Björk's turbulent waterborne trip. Suddenly a blue clay twin starts to sprout from Björk's backpack. Content at first to ride slipshod on her host, the twin gradually begins to take over as Björk sings: "I feel at home // Whenever the unknown surrounds me". What ensues is both visually fascinating and absurd. As Björk and her blue doppelganger perform a dance of struggle, tumbling over one another and looking at times like a single many-legged creature, a slightly Tibetan-looking water god beckons them closer and closer to the edge of a waterfall.

After that, things get really trippy. The climax of the video deserves to be experienced firsthand but suffice to say it includes the figures of Björk and her twin reaching warp speed against a backdrop of blue neon psychedelia.

Volta, Björk's 6th full-length studio album, was released on 7 May 2007 and can be purchased online at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Kalahari.net.

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