Music fans visiting Melbourne between now and November 1st have a new ‘must-visit’ destination. The highly regarded exhibition “David Bowie is” opened at the Australian Centre of the Moving Image today following a sell out run in cities such as London, Chicago, Paris and Berlin.
We were lucky enough to get tickets to the first session on the first day and were really glad we made the effort.
The Melbourne exhibition is a two hour total immersion in the life of the man who started out as Davie Jones, but over the years took on many other personas. The show charts Davie’s progress from his early days as South London advertising executive with a penchant for mime, through to the musical and artistic legend we know today.
Winding through a dark hall you get to experience many aspects of his art with an audioguide and view a rich collection of memorabilia and artefacts. You see the music notation books he used to teach himself songwriting as a young man, and the original copies of some of his most iconic lyrics; Fame, Fashion and Ashes to Ashes to name just a few.
Some of my personal favourite items from the vaults were a vinyl test pressing of the first Velvet Underground album given to Bowie’s manager Ken Pitt by Andy Warhol in 1966, a synthesiser Brian Eno passed down to Bowie after they had produced the Berlin trilogy Low, Heroes and Lodger and also Bowie’s painting of his companion while living in Berlin, James Osterberg (also known to music fans as Iggy Pop). It is hard to fathom just how many musical legendary leylines are intertwined in these objects. It’s like witnessing the late 20th century’s musical big bang.
As you would expect from an exhibition that started life at the Victoria & Albert museum there are costumes at every turn. There’s the gender bending “Rabbit” suit worn by Ziggy Stardust (and later worn as a homage at the Brits by Kate Moss) a special video cabinet showcases the multi coloured suit he wore here performing Starman on TV in 1972; but beyond the outfits you also get to hear what the inspiration behind them was. It goes along the lines of adopting kabuki and mime metaphors to project a physical manifestation of art, or something a critic with a better grasp of the language could more eloquently explain.
As you navigate the show and audio “GuidePort” plays content triggered by beacons. You get to hear and view many gems of pieces of audio/video material linked to the phases of his development, whether it’s the mime support act for Marc Bolan’s “Tyrannosaurus Rex” or the strange Saturday Night Live appearance where he and his Plastic suit were carried to the microphone by assistants.
For the final portion, you hand back the headset and get to stand in a hall and experience the “live” element of the show, a multi media happening with footage from one of his last shows as Ziggy Stardust at Hammersmith in 1973.
The overriding feeling I got from the exhibition was how Bowie more than any other artist, kicked against convention and forged new paths away from the traditional, away from the mundane. We are on this planet for only a short time, very few of us will live our lives to the extent that David Bowie has managed to live his.
We are all richer for having had him with us.
“David Bowie, he did it first and he did it best” Jon Toogood, Shihad, Planet of Sound show on Hauraki.
Tickets and information available here: http://www.acmi.net.au/exhibitions/bowie/