So, I went to the Bowie exhibition. I went midweek on a fairly grim windswept evening, so part of the deal was showing up at “Secretariat Gate” and being ushered into the V&A down miles of corridors, sometimes past a security control room, sometimes past a masterpiece, pushing ahead of the dame. It gave the whole thing something of the pleasure of a good gig. Reasonable people are off being reasonable or whatever it is they do. We are here.
I’d like to say that one of the best things was the David Bowie Is…Losing Money Hand Over Fist hall dedicated to his business ventures, but to be honest the joke is a little cheap. There is a reference to the ISP tucked away somewhere, though; a prize to readers who went and spotted it. No reference to the securitised bond issue, though.
More seriously, much more seriously, the whole show makes a case that his work should be considered as part of an integrated British aesthetic that arose in the very early 1960s, to one side of the mainstream and ahead of it, in music, in the visual arts, and in science fiction. Bowie and a variety of other musicians, the Independent Group, and the New Wave writers. This worldview was both deeply international, and in a new way for us – it didn’t care about the former empire as such, it looked at the United States like things in the zoo, and it wanted to be European or Japanese or just elsewhere. In that sense, perhaps it had a touch of Priestley’s Bradford. Especially looking at the white plastic Italian sax from 1950-odd that shows up, you could argue it was also deeply Mod.
J.G. Ballard is an obvious case in point, and is repeatedly referred to, but he always said his favourite song was the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, something which is either deeply creepy, or possibly a suggestion that the writer in English most intelligently fascinated by the visual arts was tone deaf. He had after all been blown up.
And, of course, the stuff; yards and yards of notes on set designs, bills for session players, randomised text generation…yeah, like so.
Simon Jenkins Jenkins we know a Literature, Simon Jenkins we know a major party leader, David Cameron, as the lead to the US even put an aircraft carrier on standby should the islands is free, is a major party leader (David Cameron as it was God’s will).
Note: the location-based soundtrack works, but wear it with one headphone off to listen to other visitors. Nobody else did.