As the centre piece of Perth Festival’s 2023 program, Björk’s Cornucopia is larger than life and otherworldly.
The specially built, five-thousand seat capacity tent, which sits on Langley Park, is a marvel in itself due to its sheer scale, with a seating bank that ascends seemingly into the roof. Subtle animal sounds like birds cawing and tweeting create a forest-like soundscape as the audience piles into the giant auditorium. The stage is hidden by a curtain which has a projection of Björk’s Fossora album artwork on it; a teaser of the alien-like visuals we see more of later.
Perth based choir Voyces opens the show with their musical Director Robert Braham OAM leading them through songs requiring the utmost vocal agility and skill. Despite the challenging a cappella arrangements the choir breezes through the songs, some of the singers getting so into it they started dancing and bopping along.
Once the choir finishes, instrumentals start and a projection of a cyborg Björk moves towards us before the curtain parts to reveal the singer herself. Dressed in an oversized, green, moss-like, midi dress the sight of Björk sends the audiences into a thunderous applause.
Cornucopia is based on Björk’s 2017 album Utopia; its colourful and majestic-like qualities have translated beautifully on stage. The album is dominated by a flute chorus who are essential to the show, as well as a multi-talented percussionist. All dressed in light colours and flowy fabrics, the instrumentalists appear like ethereal bodies. I affectionately dubbed them ‘Björk’s fairies’ as they surrounded her on stage and danced enthusiastically along to the music they created.
Björk’s almost operatic vocals are as flawless live as they are recorded, never faulting throughout the near two-hour show. Although there’s no audience interaction such as talking between songs, except for a thank-you at the end, it’s evident Björk is invested in the performance; often moving around the stage and watching the instrumentalists with the same intrigue as the audience.
Björk Cornucopia. Photography by Santiago Felipe.
There’s a sense of freedom watching this show, Björk has created a world of her own with visuals that have obvious links to nature but still seem completely unique with no reference material. While I was watching I started to create a story in my mind that I had somehow landed on Björk’s planet and was being taken on a tour of all its wonders. Despite the visual and sonic splendours there was still a sense of darkness while I ventured around this world, which eventually revealed itself in heavier tracks with more disturbing, yet still fascinating, imagery.
While Björk shows off the Utopia she has created, she simultaneously reminds us of the imminent collapse of the world we’re actually on. The messaging is straight forward and can in no way be misconstrued, one message being a text-based projection the other being a video of environmental activist Greta Thunberg encouraging us to keep fossil fuels in the ground and make proactive change for future generations. Given the prominent role the resource sector plays in Australia’s economy, paying the highest wages of any industry in the country and making up 58% of our total exports, I’m sceptical if this messaging will have a lasting impact. Either way, it’s commendable for Björk to use her time to spread this message and speaks to her integrity.
Vibrant, epic and elegant, Perth should feel privileged, and maybe a bit smug too, to have such an iconic artist and show in our own backyard. Consider this a once in a lifetime experience and avoid the FOMO, Björk’s Cornucopia has one show left on March 12.