I don’t share a lot of classwork here because I feel like my personal life and my work are two separate things. This is not true; my work is part of my personal life too. This project is the perfect example of that crossover.
I recently made a video reaction to four episodes of John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” (from 1972). The assignment was to make a critical reaction of some sort in video form. It’s my last semester of grad school, so I decided that everything for classes this semester either has to be 1) thesis-related or 2) Bowie-related — or both (not mutually exclusive).
The episodes I watched were about art and culture, and I responded to the most intriguing items in a short essay along with this video. I did not, however, respond to Berger’s episodes on women and nudes in art. I thought that topic would be widely discussed (as it was) and that others would do a better job commenting on this due to their research areas.
Anyway, if you want to watch a cool video that combines my art (it’s meta — video is also my art) with Bowie’s, take a look.
Here is the accompanying essay along with the references for those of you who are interested in reading.
“To be naked is to be oneself,” (1).
If John Berger’s sentiment is true, then David Bowie was the most naked of us all. Or, I would assume he was given all of the evidence. In Ways of Seeing, John Berger continues to say that “Perspective centers everything on the eye of the beholder,” (2). My perspective on Bowie is — although not wholly unique — mine alone, and it was created through the ephemera surrounding the late artist. I became interested in Bowie and started collecting his likeness and work. The story I hold to be true about Bowie is based in my experience with the items I collected in his image and how those interact with my daily life — this act of curation and manipulation of objects in his likeness makes my perspective on Bowie unique to me alone. (3).
Although meaning can change based on individual perspective, the artist or designer has the ability to shape his or her message through the act of curation — and Bowie was a genius at this. As an artist and performer, Bowie exemplified self-curation via his ever-changing rock-and-roll chameleon style. His image — which many of us agree was true to his personal whims and desires — showed us (society’s misfits) an alternative way of life. This alternative conformity was of major importance to those of us who did not fit (4). Bowie’s personas, which he created through a wide variety of multiple media — beyond music — shout at us, “Be true to yourself and not only will everything be all right, it will be fabulous.” We took in these images. And we will never forget them.
If you buy a painting you buy the look of the thing it represents (5). By that same sentiment, albums and publicity images are today’s equivalent to oil paintings; I bought into the idea of the glamorous crown prince of the misfits. This explains why Bowie was (and remains) so successful. A writer from VOX Online laments, “A huge part of David Bowie’s legacy is empathy. Through both his music and his very existence, Bowie had the power to make you feel like you weren’t in this world alone. You could find a kinship in his strangeness …’” (6).
In my video, I Once Existed and I Looked Like This, I attempted to explore how meaning can be altered by adding art and different music to an existing work. By adding art and different music to Bowie’s image, I attempted to transmit my perspective — namely grief and admiration — to a different audience. I also wanted to explore the meaning of reality — is it something you can hold? What is truth? These questions are especially prevalent in today’s society.
What continues to captivate me about Bowie is the fact that somebody I never met could move me so much. Was he real? Part of me wonders if Bowie was a collective of our imaginations. And although I can’t physically grasp Bowie or all of his work, the idea of his existence remains solid enough to inspire me for many years to come.
1. Berger, J. (Writer). (1972). Episode 2 [Television series episode]. In Ways of Seeing.
2. Berger, J. (Writer). (1972). Episode 1 [Television series episode]. In Ways of Seeing.
3. Berger, J. (Writer). (1972). Episode 3 [Television series episode]. In Ways of Seeing.
4. Pappas, S. (2016). Why David Bowie Was So Loved: The Science of Nonconformity. Retrieved January 25, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/53347-why-david-bowie-was-loved.html
5. Berger, J. (Writer). (1972). Episode 3 [Television series episode]. In Ways of Seeing.
6. David Bowie’s isolated vocals of “Under Pressure” show how talented he was. (2016). Retrieved January 25, 2016, from http://www.vox.com/2016/1/11/10749618/david-bowie-vocals-under-pressure
To read about the science behind nonconformity in relation to David Bowie, check out this great article on LiveScience.
PS I will eventually turn back to non-Bowie-flavored content, but … it’s kind of been Bowie-flavored for years anyway, so what’s the difference now? 🙂