David Bowie gave as much to sci-fi and fashion as he did to music
The man from Brixton (and Mars) whose penchant for reinvention was spurred by a childhood desire to write musicals and create characters, took a turn towards playing those characters himself when his first career choice looked unlikely. Ziggy Stardust allowed David Bowie to become someone else and therefore feel at ease while performing. Who hasn’t wanted to be someone else at some point in their lives? It’s an element of the human condition that we can experience vicariously through David Bowie’s transformations. The courage, the creativity, the brevity, the showmanship, the beauty.
Costumes, fashion and dressing up are vehicles of self-expression, storytelling and reinvention. Costumes and fashion were tools used in a fascinating and inspiring way by Bowie, from his Mr Fish-created frock coats for the Man Who Sold the World album cover, to his suit, dog-collar and stiletto combo for his meeting with Tony Blair; he was sharing a visual commentary with the world. That’s what makes fashion so powerful – the evocation brought about when in the hands (and on the body of) such a visionary and intelligent person.
David Bowie predicted the future (in his interview with Jeremy Paxman) and understood that the internet would bring creatives and their audiences closer together, with the role of the audience becoming more integral. He saw it as a great demystification of the creator’s practice and as an equally enthralling and terrifying advancement. That was 15 years ago. In the interview, Bowie laughingly expressed the Internet as an ‘Alien life-form’ when Jeremy Paxman suggested it might be a strange but somewhat ineffectual tool. The interview demonstrates a glaring gulf between the fabric of these two men – the unimaginative and businesslike Paxman and the inspired and visionary Bowie. Watch Bowie predict the future and reveal his support for, and investment in, Internet ventures.
It’s hard to recall another artist whose work has had such a profound and positive relationship with space than David Bowie. As explained in his biography in the Sci-Fi Hall of Fame, his breakthrough 1969 single “Space Oddity”, which tells the story of an astronaut’s possibly tragic mission, was broadcast by the BBC during its coverage of the Apollo 11 launch and lunar landing. The song bridged the science-focused world of the space race, rock ‘n’ roll, and popular culture.
In 2013, Astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded and filmed his own rendition of Space Oddity while on the International Space Station. He wanted to allow all of us on earth to see ‘where we truly are in space exploration’. A message to the world from the ISS sent via the words and artistry of David Bowie. Hadfield received David Bowie’s support with rights and publication of the rendition.
David Bowie existed comfortably as a artist within the film genres of sci-fi and fantasy while simultaneously shaping notions of fashion, sexuality and beauty.
The message I’m carrying with me from the art and wisdom shared by David Bowie is: you can be whoever you want to be, and his quote “I have no knowledge of who I am, but I am extremely happy”.
I mentioned in my previous post that we’re set to achieve travel to and from outer space in our lifetime. But before we go Interstellar, let’s cure cancer.
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