Style & Then Some contributor Hector MacKenzie has been a Bowie fan since he was ten. Living in Tunisia, he first heard his dad’s Station to Station CD playing in the lounge, cocaine funk on a half decent Sony Hi-Fi.
Here he takes us through the V&A’s ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition which opened this weekend and runs until 11th August 2013.
“I once read that the album cover for ‘Heroes’ can be read as International Sign Language for “this album is a fucking masterpiece”. It’s one of my favourite album covers ever and one of my favourite albums. It’s like he knows it’s a groundbreaking album and he’s not afraid to admit it.
A fair amount of the ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition is pretty factual – you could read it online – but that’s no bad thing. Newbies to Bowie get a good snapshot of the defining points of his career and Bowie fans can zone in on photos, footage or stories they want to know more about or something new they haven’t heard of before.
For me that was seeing the images from the Heroes photoshoot, instruments like Brian Eno’s EMS Synthi AMS synthesizer and the cocaine spoon Bowie used in the mid seventies when he was recording Station to Station – an album he can’t remember making because of his time spent with that spoon.
Seeing the costumes in the flesh was another of my favourite parts. That might be a cliche but it makes you realise how out there they must have been in the 70s. Bowie broke down a lot of walls for accepting what seemed like strange ideas in fashion at the time. The handwritten lyrics and ideas for songs are displayed well as are the 3D scenes and set ideas for ‘Diamond Dogs’, alongside storyboards which show his thought process and influences.
Footage of Bowie playing live is great for both hardcore fans and casual visitors to the V&A and the sound element of the exhibition is very interactive. If you walk around the whole thing with your headset on, you can learn everything there is to know about Bowie but you can still choose when to just look at one of the Bowie artifacts by yourself. Don’t be worried when you find you’re still inside three hours later, just grab a postcard with film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth on, buy the book and leave smiling.”
*Note: the headline refers to some of the top searches relating to ‘David Bowie is’ on Google – lazy we know but not as bad as some.
Self Portrait © The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images
Cut-up lyrics for ‘Blackout’ © The David Bowie Archive 2012. Image © V&A Images
Striped bodysuit Aladdin Sane tour © Sukita / The David Bowie Archive 2012
Installation shots (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London