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Watch Björk explain what television is in this vintage footage from 1988


Björk is an artist so utterly unique that quantifying her musical influence is purely reductive. The singer’s eccentric personality and musical style made her the sharpest side of the cutting edge and also endeared her to many people’s hearts.

Part of that endearment arose from Björk’s unabashed persona. Never afraid to let her mind take over the reins of her tongue, the singer has often waxed lyrical about things the Icelandic singer is passionate about. Our favourite clip though is of The Sugarcubes’ singer explaining how television works back in 1988.

The vintage clip, which you can see below, sees Björk explaining how television works as only the Icelandic singer could, with a series of off-beat proverbs and literary entrapments.

“Hello. It is Christmas time and I am sitting here by my TV. I’ve been watching it very much lately because I’m on holiday,” begins the singer.

She continues as the front person of The Sugarcubes, I’ve been seeing all these programs about all sorts of things. About Icelandics being very happy about Christmas, very gay, and also very serious and spiritual. And also seeing Icelandic comic people making jokes. Which they are very good at.”

That’s not enough though as her thoughts soon turn to the inner workings of the television set, “But now I’m curious. I’ve switched the TV off and now I want to see how it operates. How it can make, put me into all those weird situations. So… It’s about time.”

“This is what it looks like. Look at this,” she says opening up the back of the electronic equipment. “This looks like a city. Like a little model of a city. The houses, which are here, and streets. This is maybe an elevator to go up there. And here are all the wires. These wires, they really take care of all the electrons when they come through there. They take care that they are powerful enough to get all the way through to here. I read that in a Danish book. This morning.”

“This beautiful television has put me, like I said before, in all sorts of situations. I remember being very scared because an Icelandic poet told me that not like in cinemas, where the thing that throws the picture from it just sends light on the screen, but this is different. This is millions and millions of little screens that send light, some sort of electric light, I’m not really sure.” Of course, Björk wouldn’t let it settle like that.

“But because there are so many of them, and in fact you are watching very many things when you are watching TV. Your head is very busy all the time to calculate and put it all together into one picture. And then because you’re so busy doing that, you don’t watch very carefully what the program you are watching is really about. So you become hypnotized. So all that’s on TV, it just goes directly into your brain and you stop judging it’s right or not.”

“You just swallow and swallow. This is what an Icelandic poet told me. And I became so scared to television that I always got headaches when I watched it. Then, later on, when I got my Danish book on television, I stopped being afraid because I read the truth, the scientifical truth and it was much better.

You shouldn’t let poets lie to you.”

Watch Bjork explain television as part of this vintage footage from 1988 below.