Watch Björk’s 6 Favorite TED Talks, From the Mushroom Death Suit to the Virtual Choir


Image by Zach Klein

Singer-song­writer Björk, cur­rent­ly enjoy­ing a career ret­ro­spec­tive at the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art, cel­e­brat­ed TED’s bil­lionth video view with a playlist of six trea­sured TED Talks. What do her choic­es say about her?

In this talk, artist Jae Rhim Lee mod­els her Mush­room Death Suit, a kicky lit­tle snug­gy designed to decom­pose and reme­di­ate tox­ins from corpses before they leech back into the soil or sky. Despite Björk’s fond­ness for out­ré fash­ion, I’m pret­ty sure this choice goes beyond the mere­ly sar­to­r­i­al.

For more infor­ma­tion, or to get in line for a mush­room suit of your own, see the Infin­i­ty Bur­ial Project.

Con­tin­u­ing with the mush­room / fash­ion theme, Björk next turns to design­er Suzanne Lee, who demon­strates how she grows sus­tain­able tex­tiles from kom­bucha mush­rooms. The result­ing mate­r­i­al may var­i­ous­ly resem­ble paper or flex­i­ble veg­etable leather. It is extreme­ly recep­tive to nat­ur­al dyes, but not water repel­lent, so bring a non-kom­bucha-based change of clothes in case you get caught in the rain.

For more infor­ma­tion on Lee’s home­grown, super green fab­ric, vis­it Bio­Cou­ture.

Björk’s clear­ly got a soft spot for things that grow: mush­rooms, mush­room-based fab­ric, and now…building mate­ri­als? Pro­fes­sor of Exper­i­men­tal Archi­tec­ture Rachel Arm­strong’s plan for self-regen­er­at­ing build­ings involves pro­to­cols, or “lit­tle fat­ty bags” that behave like liv­ing things despite an absence of DNA. I’m still not sure how it works, but as long as the lit­tle fat­ty bags are not added to my own ever-grow­ing edi­fice, I’m down.

For more infor­ma­tion on what Dr. Arm­strong refers to as bot­tom up con­struc­tion (includ­ing a scheme to keep Venice from sink­ing) see Black Sky Think­ing.

Björk’s next choice takes a turn for the seri­ous… with games. Game Design­er Bren­da Romero began explor­ing the heavy duty emo­tion­al pos­si­bil­i­ties of the medi­um when her 9‑year-old daugh­ter returned from school with a less than nuanced under­stand­ing of the Mid­dle Pas­sage. The suc­cess of that exper­i­ment inspired her to cre­ate games that spur play­ers to engage on a deep­er lev­el with thorny his­tor­i­cal sub­jects. (The Trail of Tears required 50,000 indi­vid­ual red­dish-brown pieces).

Learn more about Romero’s ana­log games at The Mechan­ic is the Mes­sage.

Remem­ber those 50,000 indi­vid­ual pieces? As pho­tog­ra­ph­er Aaron Huey doc­u­ment­ed life on Pine Ridge Reser­va­tion, he was hum­bled by hear­ing him­self referred to as “wasichu,” a Lako­ta word that can be trans­lat­ed as “non-Indi­an.” Huey decid­ed not to shy away from its more point­ed trans­la­tion: “the one who takes the best meat for him­self.” His TED Talk is an impas­sioned his­to­ry les­son that begins in 1824 with the cre­ation of the Bureau of Indi­an Affairs and ends in an activist chal­lenge.

Proof that Björk is not entire­ly about the quirk.

See Huey’s pho­tos from the Nation­al Geo­graph­ic cov­er sto­ry, “In the Spir­it of Crazy Horse.”

Björk opts to close things on a musi­cal note with excerpts from com­pos­er Eric Whitacre’s “Lux Aurumque” and “Sleep” per­formed by a crowd­sourced vir­tu­al choir. Its members—they swell to 1999 for “Sleep”—record their parts alone at home, then upload them to be mixed into some­thing son­i­cal­ly and spir­i­tu­al­ly greater than the sum of its parts.

Lis­ten to “Sleep” in its entire­ty here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Album Björk Record­ed as an 11-Year-Old: Fea­tures Cov­er Art Pro­vid­ed By Her Mom (1977)

A Young Björk Decon­structs (Phys­i­cal­ly & The­o­ret­i­cal­ly) a Tele­vi­sion in a Delight­ful Retro Video

Björk and Sir David Atten­bor­ough Team Up in a New Doc­u­men­tary About Music and Tech­nol­o­gy

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.