It is incredibly difficult not to be swept away by the fabulous glamour of the costumes and album and movie posters on display, whilst being hypnotised by the musical legend through sophisticated Sennheiser technology allowing personal automated guided dialogue and music depending on where you stand in the exhibition.
As the title suggests, David Bowie is is not merely a retrospective exhibition, and instead delves into the creative mind of Bowie in his influence upon the music, fashion, theatre and film industries. Immersing yourself into the exhibition you can begin to understand the creative process of Bowie, from school age drawings, his early work struggling to get into the industry, hand written drafts of musical scores, lyrics and set designs, and paintings.
For people not familiar with his work, you can see the influences of Stanley Kubrick and comradery with Iggy Pop, and personal accounts of the respect and friendship shared with other legends such as the late great Jim Henson creating the role of the Goblin King in Labyrinth specifically for Bowie.
What struck me most in learning about his creative process was that Bowie was never an artist in isolation. Throughout his life he wanted and needed to interact and collaborate. From an early age he forced himself to be inspired by jazz musicians and philosophers and co-developed the Verbasizer computer software to extrapolate new meanings from previously written texts to serve as an inspiration for song lyrics. Bowie was never afraid to support arthouse film work, and it is quite amusing to see the paradoxical fame he has achieved by supporting artistic subcultures.
Bowie has always been a huge advocate for equal rights and in particular for the LGBTIQ community. His statement for Melody Maker in 1972 stating he was gay presented an alternative version of masculinity to mainstream culture, and while taking an extreme approach in both appearance and lifestyle, Bowie serves as a role model that creative freedom and honesty with oneself should not only be accepted but embraced.
Bowie’s influences continue today beyond the iconic imagery on display in the exhibition, and while impossible to showcase all those who were inspired by him, the namesake of the exhibition David Bowie is could have easily given more to his continual legacy. His music is featured in literally hundreds of popular film and television productions including Guardians of the Galaxy, The Simpsons, Mad Men and American Horror Story.
A self-titled character featured in the cartoon The Venture Bros., and Michael Fassbender admits utilising a bit of Bowie in his role of the android David in the 2012 movie Prometheus (though perhaps a bit more Bowie was needed to save that film). Bowie also voiced the character Boz specifically designed for him in the computer game he co-produced, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, back in 1999 that still retains a cult following.
Bowie’s pop-culture and geekdom influences hit new heights when taking even the briefest glimpses into the comic book industry. He served as inspiration for the female character Lucifer in the current hit Image comic book series The Wicked and the Divine, and the character Noh-Varr in the Marvel comics universe.
Frank Miller was inspired by Bowie in his take on the DC villain The Joker in his book The Dark Knight Returns that has in turn formed the basis of Jared Leto’s Joker character in the upcoming movie Suicide Squad (2016). Fellow comic book legend Neil Gaiman stated that David Bowie is the only choice to play Miller’s version of The Joker on film, and who also incidentally based his own Lucifer character on Bowie in the DC Sandman universe.
It seems that the king (or perhaps queen) of pop music, fashion and goblin kingdoms can equally rule any kingdom and continues to serve to his adoring masses.
David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in a Melbourne exclusive until 1 November 2015. For more information, visit: www.acmi.net.au for details. The Wicked and the Divine and The Dark Knight Returns are available from All Star Comics and all good comic book retail outlets.
David Bowie is far more than an exhibition, and will continue to be a major influence for modern pop-culture and geekdom
By Jimmy Twin
Image: Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane, 1973. Photograph by Brian Duffy. Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive.