Last … LAST December I trekked to Chicago to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art while they had the David Bowie Is traveling exhibition. I never blogged about it because my photos are not good and because I felt quite silly that an exhibit about an artist I never met could move me so much.
I decided to finally post this because I was listening to a podcast about the proper way to keep a journal (via the Mortified podcast). Two things they recommended: 1) record the event and 2) record your emotions surrounding the event. Recording both gives you the best chance of remembering the event the way it happened. They additionally suggested including yourself as a character in your entry. And, finally, they said to address your journal to a person — whether that person be real, fictional, live, or dead.
Given those parameters, here is my recap of the MCA David Bowie Is exhibit from December 2014.
Dear Mr. Bowie;
I’m glad to have finally gotten to see you — or a selection of the body of your work. Even though in 2014 the world did not know that you were leaving so soon, when I saw this show I realized this would be the closest I ever would get to seeing you live. I felt as if I was attending a Bowie concert and was just as elated going through the exhibit as I might have been going to a live show. Although, I’ll never truly know how that might have felt.
I didn’t know what sort of event I would be walking into until the doors opened (at the time the marketing campaign for the exhibit had been fairly vague). I’ve been to museums before but not to an exhibit of this grandeur. Upon walking in I remember wanting to soak in every piece of it for as long as possible. My ticket said to plan on two hours to fully experience the collection, and, Mr. Bowie, by the end I felt I overstayed my welcome (as did the museum employees that had been shuffling our group through).
Most moving and memorable pieces of your work and ephemera at this exhibit included:
- A video of the performance in which you killed off Ziggy Stardust. It was Rock and Roll Suicide — quite literally. This was shown at the end of the exhibit in a room filled with costumes from years’ past. I sat in that room and waited for the song to repeat because it remains the song that means the most to me. The lyric “Oh no, love! You’re not alone,” (especially at the very end when it holds so much emotion) has guided me through times I felt so very much alone (in spirit and in thought, not in the flesh).
(I was oh-so-very close to getting “Oh No Love! You’re not alone” in your handwriting tattooed on my arm, but I already have love on me twice, so I opted against this for now).
- Your cocaine spoon. The very fact that this was on display spoke volumes to me about the life you led during the height of your creative success (I still cannot grasp the amount of work you produced from 1971-1975).
- Oblique Strategies and the work you did with Brian Eno. I believe there were some cut-ups and other methods to creative madness. During the time I went to this exhibit, I was desperately seeking thesis material. You were (and remain) a creative force of inspiration to me. To find something that was so directly connected to what I was researching in your work made me feel my work was important (at the time I was researching random chance and creativity).
- Images and stories from your boyhood. Seeing you as an awkward boy trying to fit into the mainstream pop scene in the 60s reminded me that misfits like me may fail where others see success, but in our own realms we can achieve our desires if we just add some pizazz and really believe in what we are doing. Indeed, Mr. Bowie, I think a dictionary entry for your name is overdue. I “Bowie” my way through tough assignments and when I’m feeling the worst, I just add a little David Bowie class or glamour to my outer appearance. Thank you for that.
- Quite literally, everything in this exhibit. You produced so many pretty things in your lifetime. You seemed magical. I think that is why the world was shocked to find that you were not, in fact, immortal.
Thank you for sharing your work with us and for leaving us with one last gift of art to enjoy (★).
In true Bowie fashion — love on ya!