Walking through David Bowie Is… my brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare, I had to cram so many things to store everything in there. This exhibition which has toured from the V&A to Melbourne’s ACMI plays on all the senses and encompasses all the elements of Bowie’s remarkable career. From the clothes he wore, to his hand written song lyrics, books he carried around in his back pocket to look cool, to movie costumes, interviews, music videos, TV appearances, paintings, songs, artists who influenced him; a whole array of objects, moving image, sound, I never thought I would need so much Bowie.
As I arrived at the exhibition it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor, and as I stumbled through the exhibition I thought of all those years. Much more than five years of Bowie, as an influence, an icon… all the things that Bowie is and was. In a bubble of Bowie, a strange combination of sensory overload and deprivation, the visitors wander in silence, wide eyed and bouncing off the walls like dodgem cars, both aware of the crowds and yet cut off from them. Bowie, you have put us all in a Moonage Daydream and we will be a rock and roll bitch for you. I don’t know what time it was, the lights were low, and it was easy to get drawn into watching video after video.
Here is one that isn’t included:
Don’t you wonder sometimes ’bout sound and vision? Bowie obviously does. Bowie is not just music, not just performance, not acting, or fashion, sexuality, art or drugs. Bowie is all these things, he is sound and vision. Once you get to the end of the exhibition you have run so long and run so far, we have witnessed Ziggy Stardust, the Golden Years, the return of the thin white duke, all Bowie’s changes, but overall we are left with one impression of what Bowie Is. Bowie is an embodiment of teenaged neurosis and a barometer of cool. Like his books, he wore is sexuality in his back pocket to look cool, but maybe he ever took it out to read. He may not have aways been original, but boy did he have style. He tried on a costume only to discard it, but if the exhibition revealed one thing about Bowie it is his undeniable humanity. You get a behind the scenes view, both at the time and him looking back today, of the cracked actor behind the man who fell to earth. He was nervous going up to perform, self aware of his own desire to be trendy, flawed and not very good at painting. Bowie, how you turn my world you precious thing. You show us that by putting on a disguise we can be ourselves, and you’ll be there for us as our world falls down, because dance magic can cure the blues.
So it’s loud and is tasteless and I’ve heard it before, go look it up on YouTube, but it won’t be the same. Oh! you pretty things, put on your red shoes and head to ACMI, because life takes a cigarette and puts it in your hand, but ashes to ashes and funk to funky, Bowie is our modern love, so let’s sway, sway through the crowd to an empty space, and into the next day. Bam wam, thank you ma’am!