“David Bowie is the soundtrack of our lives”
Finally David Bowie is back to Berlin for a while where he lived from 1976 until 1978. Not in person unfortunately and not as a resident but with a startling exhibition about his person and his art, in which the curators are able to transcend the extraordinary artistic power of David Bowie, who influenced so many other artists, who, in his active carrier, was one of the most innovative and progressive rock stars whatsoever. “David Bowie is the soundtrack of our lives”, the director of the Victoria & Albert museum in London, Martin Roth, said during the press conference preceding the opening of the exhibition.
Victoria Broackes, one of the two curators of the exhibit adds: “This exhibition is about creation, impact and inspiration. Bowie was interested how artist become inspired. The exhibition shows not only just that but also how he inspired others.” This one can see very clearly in the Berlin section of the exhibition, which was extended by 60 pieces just for the Berlin. Bowie was impressed by the works of the Impressionist which he studied at Brücke Museum in Grunewald, where rode to by bike, which is quite a distance from the apartment in Schöneberg where he lived. How he holds his hands was inspired by the painting 'Männerbildnis' by Erich Heckel. The painting as well as the various pictures taken for the session are part of the exhibit.
But Bowie is also well known for blurring distinction between the sexes with his perfomances and his costumes. When he performed “Ziggy Stardust” in the BBC for the first time he appeared in a suit (the suit as well as the performance are shown in the exhibit) which irritated the audience: was he a man, a woman or an alien? At the entrance to the exhibition Bowie is described, as “a glamorous pioneer of invented identities, questioning gender and social means”.
The exhibition was formerly shown at the V&A, which it also curated. The exhibition was planned as a show about an intensive and avantgardistic period of pop history, as Martin Roth pointed out. The immense success and interest the exhibition generated in London and is generating in Berlin, was neither planned nor foretold.
Bowie's Berlin years were, for several reasons, crucial in his development as an artist. When his song, reflecting his time in the city, “Where are we now?” came out last year we already wrote about Bowie's years in Berlin on our blog. Before Bowie came to Berlin he lived in Los Angeles, was almost broke due to a legal dispute with his ex-manager and had severe drug problems. Coming to Berlin was an act of self-liberation, an act to come clean with himself and away from the drugs which ate him alive. “In Berlin Bowie faced his demons and subsequently renewed and rejuvenated himself in the process”, says Victoria Broackes. The exhibition sends the visitors on a time journey through the subculture of West Berlin during the 1970s, the time when Bowie and dazzling companions such as Iggy Pop influenced the Berlin nightlife.
David Bowie knew the author Christopher Isherwood and was a huge fan of his novel “Goodbye to Berlin” which Isherwood published in 1939 and which the famous musical “Cabaret” is based upon. The novel spurred Bowie's interest in the city. He decided to come to the walled-in city. The Berlin years 1976/78 were some of the most productive years of Bowie’s career; it was then when he wrote music history. He drew creative energy from the city and created a triptych of groundbreaking albums known as the 'Berlin Trilogy' which are “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger”. The albums were recorded at one of the world's most famous recording studios the Hansa Studios which are located very close to Potsdamer Platz. During Bowie's time in Berlin the area was a huge wasteland with the studio on its eastern and the Berlin Wall on its northern perimeter. Today the Potsdamer Platz Mall, a small park and a string of newly build houses (between the park and the Hansa Studios) are situated there. Just a stone's throw away from Hansa Studios lies the Martin-Gropius-Bau in which the David Bowie Exhibition takes place until August 10, 2014.
For the exhibition, that explores the broad range of Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film, the V&A’s Theatre and Performance curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh selected more than 300 objects from the David Bowie Archive and brought them together for the very first time. They include handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments and album artwork.
Items on display include the Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddy Buretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s designed bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane Tour (1973) and the Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with David Bowie for the Earthling album cover (1997). Several pictures and video-clips. Letters from and to German actress Marlene Dietrich. Paintings Bowie did while in Berlin, a picture from 'Vogue' in 1971 which inspired him for the haircut of Ziggy Stardust.
The exhibition is designed to be an immersive audio experience. Sound quality is therefore one of the most critical elements, and the organizers have drawn on the expertise and technology of audio specialist Sennheiser to craft the exhibition’s rich soundscape. Audio guides automatically provide the music and soundtrack when visitors approach the exhibits and screens, and seamlessly integrate all sound material into the tour.
For ticket and admission information please click here.