David Bowie Is: a hard question to answer, but it is a question that was asked by the V&A. Now the answer is coming to Melbourne. But as is the case with most difficult questions, there are a lot of different theories and opinions on what exactly David Bowie is… Enough to warrant not only an exhibition, but also a symposium dedicated to solving the enigma.
Masayoshi Sukita, “Heroes”, 1977
The popularity of David Bowie cannot be denied, David Bowie Is has been a sell out exhibition across the world, and it seems it won’t be any different here in Melbourne. After all Bowie crosses all boundaries, he can be something different for every one, and for each stage in your life. Bowie is the great chameleon. Bowie is a mirror. He changes, reflects, and distills a time and a movement and hands it back to us on a silver platter. Bowie is your childhood: that hair, those very tight tights. Bowie is your teens: Aladin Sane makeup jumping on the bed. Bowie is becoming an adult, Bowie is getting old. (But doesn’t he look great still?). Bowie is a champion for transsexuality and homosexuality, but also marrying models and living the rock and roll lifestyle.
You could write an almost never ending list of what David Bowie is, perhaps the more difficult question is what he isn’t. One thing I know for sure is that he isn’t going anywhere. Bowie is cemented in the hearts and record collections of millions, and this exhibition only serves to reinforce his importance as an artist, musician, cultural figure and iconoclast.
I wonder what Bowie thinks of all this. It would be a strange feeling having a symposium dedicated to you, but then I get the feeling that Bowie is used to strange. It as though the real Bowie barely exists any more, his persona has outgrown his body and his life, transcended reality and moved to iconic status.
Velvet Goldmine, 1988.
The film Velvet Goldmine explores this idea, drawing on the iconic tale of David Bowie’s life and relationship with fame to pose a fictional tale of a rockstar who fakes his own death to remerge by another name, only to continue to grow in fame whilst his previous manifestation lives on as a heroic figure. A strange film with many great actors who surprisingly fail to act very well, it is still worth a watch. Like the character in the film, Bowie almost seems to kill each manifestation of himself before moving on to the next. Like art movements, changing fashions, and changing times, we often feel the need to rebel against the past, sometimes violently, to move forward. But rarely does this happen so frequently and so distinctly in one person as with Bowie and his career and life.
There is still a little wait till David Bowie Is opens on July 16th, but luckily for us there is an appetiser in the form of an exhibition at Mossgreen: David Bowie Heroes by Masayoshi Sukita. This series of photographs includes both iconic images that are known and loved by Bowie fans, and more intimate shots taken throughout Bowie’s career. It documents some of the many changes that Bowie has been through, showing him in studio, on stage, and out in the real world (though nothing ever looks totally real when Bowie is involved). It is especially surreal to go when Mossgreen also has an auction on. the strange but totally right proximity of the Thin White Duke and antique ivory will certainly pick up ones morale.
David Bowie Is
16 July – 1 November
David Bowie Heroes
17 June – 30 July