“Bowie Is”

Hot on the heels of a”Residency”
at London’s “Victoria and Albert” Museum and starring in an all-encompassing multi-media Exhibition at The Art Gallery of Ontario


Bowie Is:

The most mind blowing exquisitely layered multi-media exhibition I’ve seen to date. Both a sonic and visual spectacle that immerses the “viewer” in surround-sound.

A sublime curation of a diverse body of work from probably one of the most underrated “Pop” icons of our time

An exhilarating reminder of how it’s possible to reinvent yourself over and over whilst constantly exploring all your aspects of creativity as a piece of a larger artistic picture.

A re-definition of “Art “in its broadest sense (and therefore a brave and forward thinking stance from the AGO)

A showcase for all the “behind-the-scenes” notes/drawings/doodles/sketches and designs that hallmarked his involvement with every part of the creative process whether it be on stage, in a video, or as a recording.

A celebration of the life and prolific output of a true trendsetter.”A glamorous pioneer of invented identities”

A comprehensive chronologically presented archive of the life of a man who is unafraid to express himself at every artistic level and to challenge the social boundaries of the various “ages” through which he has trail-blazed.a questioner of social norms and gender

Absolutely nothing to do with tabloid rubbish or his private persona

Exhibit Notes:
Get ready to experience the amazing directional viewing/listening concept delivered through your complimentary headset. The soundtrack and narration merge and fade in and out as you move from exhibit to exhibit.
First gallery:
Here we find the contextual pieces and the influences that framed his early life. Bowies own voice and memories accompany you through this gallery.
Born David Jones in Brixton UK in 1947
Began singing in various bands from the age of 16 – pootled around with acting roles and trained as a professional mime artist but until 1969 failed to make a significant commercial breakthrough.
Then came “Space Oddity” – which gets its own exhibit here. This incorporates memorabilia, notes, the video etc of the 1969 career-changing release of this iconic record just prior to the Apollo 12 moon landing.
A “Star Man” booth features costumes and a cosmic split screen kaleidoscope style video of a 1972 “Top of the Pops” appearance with the “too gorgeous” Mick Ronson. Amusing quote with the video, stating that Bowie “outraged and enthralled” viewers of the prime time music show with his alien appearance on colour television (remembering that colour tv was a new concept) and his homoerotic stage-play with Mick Ronson”!

One whole gallery is devoted to Bowie’s Andy Warhol influence/connection.

Up the spiral Gehry staircase to the second floor of the exhibition

Multi media on speed in here.
Where to look?
How to move around it?

Video cubes hang from the ceiling
Acrylic Display cases house masks, clothing and footwear and draft music/show design concepts.
Small TVs screen recordings and documentary pieces – notably some 1973 “Nationwide” archival footage capturing the public reaction to “Ziggyman”, with the very straight, very BBC Bernard Falk describing Bowie as follows:
“A bizarre self-constructed freak with a painted face and carefully adjusted lipstick. This 26 year old man earns about half million pounds a year and can afford to have a personal makeup artist to coat his nails in silver – features confused Newcastle pensioners who have been caught up in the crowds of screaming girls outside

On the walls, paper records, photos and artwork by the man himself

Turn one way and you hear “Gene Genie “
Turn another and “Star Man” blasts into your headset.
My favourite exhibit – a TV screen “looping” the amazing NBC Saturday night live video (1979) where he is carried on stage (because of the restrictive nature of his self-designed costume) backed by The cult German performer Klaus Nomi – who subsequently adopted this style and made it his own – singing “The Man who sold the World” Flanked by story boards detailing the avant garde cabaret influence of 1920’s Europe on his video, and the fact that Bowie’s costume designs and robotic movements were inspired by two specific pieces of Dadaist theatre – performance of Tristian Tzara’s “The Gas Heart with costume by Sonia Delaney and a 1916 recitation by Hugo Bell (he wore a similarly restrictive costume)

Also a small Booth with background info on his latest release “The Next Day”

Excellent “Boys keep swinging” exhibit – with all the costumes – plus his gender bending appearance as the three accompanying backing singers. At the end of the video two of these “characters” pose at the entrance of the catwalk, pause to camera, pull off the wig with attitude and dramatically wipe/smear off the lipstick revealing the gorgeous Bowie glowering onto the lens. Pretty intense confusing messaging for a 1970’s audience.

A separate screening area shows a montage of every film appearance including “The Prestige”, “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence”, “The man who fell to earth” etc

Move to a room with chequerboard tv monitors and chequerboard tiled floor. Stand on the tile that corresponds to the screen you are watching and hey presto – the soundtrack – stellar!

Look out for his art/cartoons and mime pieces here too.

The masterpiece for me however is the last gallery with its massive floor to ceiling screens playing a vast selection of Bowie’s music videos and stills
Leave at least 20 minutes for this gallery


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