David Bowie Is: Victoria & Albert Museum – exhibition review
David Bowie Is Exhibition
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Open from now till August 11
Artsbitching By Fraulein Sasha Selavie
As an antidote to all the fawning over David Bowie that you’ll have found across the rest of the music press (and, hands up, across Louder Than War) since his re-emergence, we present to you an alternative opinion, dressed up as a review of the recently opened “David Bowie Is” exhibition at the V & A. Not just a hatchet job mind, it concludes by posing a serious question. A feature guaranteed to get you thinking – & talking hopefully.
Oh dear, Davey-boy; where exactly are you now? At the cash end of a ker-ching machine, with brain-dead dorks hoping a snort of Bowie butt-crumbs makes genius contagious? Well, sorry for the cynicism kids, but unlike way too many corporate clowns, star-struck bloggers and fawning never-weres, some of us lived through Bowiemania.
Oh, how we sniggered in school bike-sheds, the illicit thrills of cigarettes and a quick wank swamped by first-hand prozzie rumours that Ziggy’s personal hygiene stunk; like Sebastian Horsley, the far later Soho dandy, Bowie wallowed in the stench of his own transgressions, his sexual raw materials, as all good artists should.
Now, many of today’s right-on revisionists claim Bowie as a Wilde-style gay martyr, but frankly, in the early 70s, everybody fucked anything that moved, in a pansexual frenzy of youthful hormones, and relationships were certainly not exclusively gay. If anything, he’s more tranny patron saint than butch or bitch. And please, never forget both Bowie’s later gay denials and shameless Nazi flirtation; Mein Kampf with a pink triangle, anyone?
Remember, we’re discussing a dude whose last artistic gasp, Scary Monsters, was 33 years ago & was seen by some as a short-hand Jesus parallel sufficient to deify Davey as the Second Cumming!
Okay, enough about the man; let’s get to his droppings, or, as they’re sanctified here, his exhibition. Like the similarly OCD Warhol, it’s obvious our cold, calculating Davey threw nothing away, drawing up his 5-year success plan with Soviet ruthlessness even in the white-heat of Ziggymania.
Oh, it’s all exhaustively mounted here (like willing Ziggy sex-slaves) in notes, pix, costumes and momentoes, but tellingly, Davey’s crucial influence – gay mime artist icon Lindsay Kemp – is almost religiously excluded.
Er, howcum? Lindsay, my dears, is the guy who plotted, conceived, and designed the Ziggy shows! Well, as Angie Bowie allegedly said, David always was an ungrateful SOB…
Still, the show’s a pop train-spotter’s delight; any one with half a brain can trace Bowie’s cynical appropriation of Kraftwerk and Roxy Music’s electronica and the rising disco boom, and gee, add a dash of Jayne County, the New York Dolls and Warhol, and you got yourself one perfect, Leper Messiah!
Hell, even the show’s title is a direct rip from French poet Rimbaud – ‘I is another’, people – but yeah, at his best, Bowie’s an inspired plagiarist, an instant, lightning-rod chameleon of the Über- chic.
So, maybe I’m in a puzzled, sickened minority watching sycophants hoover up and worship the guy’s creative process, because, after all, isn’t Bowie’s peak legacy his actual, always available albums? Why pin genius to a museum wall and hope for a rub-off Midas effect? Remember, only infantile art cares for the community; the true artist has a psychopathic focus on creative provocation regardless of social consequences, as the Marquis de Sade’s ideal of liberty led to guillotined aristocrats!
And that, my dears, is why draconian governments adore censorship and book-burnings. So bulk-buy Bowie while you can- who knows when he’ll declared a class A drug!
All words by Sasha Selavie.