UPDATE :: Given the flurry of anticipation and excitement for the upcoming David Bowie exhibit at the AGO, I decided to re-post my original review of the exhibit. I was lucky enough to check it out at the V&A in London back in May while killing time on a 9 hour layover on route to Delhi. The exhibit opens this Wednesday, September 25th at the AGO and you can book your tickets in advance here. “David Bowie is” will be monumental to Toronto’s cultural landscape in 2013….you don’t want to miss it :)
Originally published on May 8th, 2013
YOGART STUDIO :: David Bowie is
4 hours in London ~ I had just enough time to enjoy a tasty take-away dinner, buy a Mother’s Day card for my mum and one for my Babcia (grandma in Polish) and meet up with my friend Lauren at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The new Bowie exhibit received rave reviews but online tickets had been sold out for weeks. So Lauren being the cleaver girl she is decided to become a member of the V&A and as a result scored 2 FREE tickets to the show! As the first international retrospective of David Bowie’s career -it was brilliant. Exceptionally well curated and a whole lot of fun :)
The specs ~ The exhibit included excerpts from Bowie’s diaries, hand-written lyrics, footage from live shows and videos, his own instruments, costumes and of course, an undeniably killer soundtrack. Make-up charts, character sketches, fan scrapbooks and even a puppet with a projection of Bowie’s face (by Tony Oursler for Bowie’s Fiftieth Birthday Concert in New York) could be found! It was inspiring to take a peek into his world. To see what he sees -his sources of inspiration. Everything from space to Japanese kabuki theatre to literature to a software program he co-created called the Verbasizer Programme that breaks down and remixes sentences into new lines. David Jones, a boy from Brixton, crafted legendary characters throughout his career: Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, the Thin White Duke, detective Nathan Adler, Minotaur (and can I suggest that they would all make for an amazing Halloween group costume!).
The response ~ As I glided through the exhibit I eventually found myself in a massive room with 50ft ceilings filled with projections of Bowie in concert and clips from his videos. The floor to ceiling screens swallowed me whole in a sudden gulp. I cranked the volume on my audio guide now blaring ”Heroes”. I found a place to sit and alternated watching the bright images on the screens and the other visitors bobbing their heads to the music. Sampled from a live show, the sound of fans cheering streamed through my headphones and I made a mental note to look into any scheduled upcoming shows he may have. I felt as though I could sit there all day. Behind the transparent screens were mannequins donning various costumes worn by Bowie onstage and arranged like a cabinet of curiousities. I finally resolved to move on to the next room. I couldn’t help but smile when I came across a hand written letter addressed to Bowie from the muppet master himself, Jim Henson:
This is the present shape of the script. It is still rough and needs quite a bit of polishing -but you can see where we’re going. I’m looking forward to hearing your reactions. You would be wonderful in this film.
Henson dreamt up the story of Labyrinth with script writer Terry Jones (of Monty Python). Together they wrote the part of Jareth the Goblin King with Bowie in mind :) Clips of Labyrinth, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, and Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat (my favourite -Bowie as Warhol!) rotated in the makeshift theatre as V&A visitors sat and watched in admiration.
The prerogative ~ David Bowie has proven time and time again that we are free to be whoever and whatever we want to be. The exhibit meticulously illustrates that ”Bowie can’t help but challenge the status quo”. He took his inspiration from the world and in turn, created something so new that we wouldn’t be where we are today without him:
Ziggy was dead. Gone. Forever. Except in David Byrne and Talking Heads, in Franz Ferdinand, in Madonna, in every idea Noel Fielding has ever had, in every concept that every pop star can have as a persona. In Minaj. In M.I.A. In Robert Smith. He created a monster, and he had to kill it.
-Tom Howard (2012)
Between 1967 and 2013, Bowie created 27 studio albums and over 150 live albums, single releases and music videos. His new album, The Next Day was released earlier this year. After 46 years in music, a phrase coined by his record label in the 1970’s still holds true:
There’s old music, there’s new music and then there’s David Bowie.
David Bowie has always been, where we are now :)
The connection ~ Bowie’s talent, creativity and identity represents an attitude and disposition that is often underappreciated and overlooked until it blankets a level of power and fame that touches the masses. Why are we so slow to identify and support those early inclinations of experimentation that shift our perspective from the societal norm to the exception? Whether it involves gender stereotypes, sexuality, to personal preferences of clothing and makeup or the toys children choose to play with, provoking and inspiring the different or strange in children should be celebrated instead of deterred. Bowie referred to this early on in his career:
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile
He told me
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie
If we fail to encourage and support children to experiment and express their evolving identities, then we ultimately fail at understanding how popular opinion can be shaped towards a more inclusive outlook of childhood. In the spirit of Ziggy Stardust, let’s embrace his message of peace, love and hope for humanity and let all the children boogie.