zaterdag 27 februari 2016

David Bowie Is

Photo: Wo.
Should I go or not? That question went through my head for several weeks, before I decided to go. I wasn't disappointed for one second. What an all-over, total sort of experience. But let us first go back a little in time.

1969 is the year I was exposed to David Bowie for the first time, like most of the rest of the world, by that wonder of 1960s music called 'Space Oddity'. After that I was totally dependent on hitsingles in The Netherlands. "Hunky Dory', Ziggy Stardust'? I did not have a clue as they past this country more or less by. 'The Jean Genie' in early 1973 was his next hit, although I found a copy of 'John, I'm Only Dancing', in a sale. My personal first Bowie record in 1972. My first real show? David Bowie in May 1976 in Ahoy, Rotterdam. Sunday 21-02-2016. A local train going to the football stadium. Three of the four persons sitting together were present in the same stadium in 1983 for the Bowie show, so we found out by coincidence. And all three had been or were about to go to Groningen.

Back to the winter 1973. A total extravagant person came on tv, far, extremely far away from the young teenage kid I was in a rural village. Bowie in his most interesting personae past me largely by. I wasn't influenced by him in any way. It was the music that caught up with me. Each time he was years ahead of my taste. Usually I caught up some time after the release of a new album, unless they just weren't good enough, certainly his 80s output after 'Let's Dance' was not good. It seems like I even caught up with 'Earthling' 19 years after its release. What I was totally ready for was 'Blackstar'. That album caught me straight where music can catch me: heart, mind and soul all at once, a sort of total experience, bought on his birthday, 8 January.

So David Bowie's music is with me for 46,5 years at this point in time. It is a part of my DNA as I found out in the Groninger Museum, once again. The music moved me in several ways, but, except for 'DJ', a song I still don't really like, all the songs grabbed me, shook me, moved me in one way or another. Everything around that, how he dressed, dressed his hair, etc. was never important to me. Did that change? Yes, in a certain way it has.

Photo: Wo.
What I came home with, is a total different view of the man. The total control over all the creative parts of his career. The ideas, concepts, everything was thought out up front and from the very beginning of his career. Even when he was totally unknown, he created his own world and environment to work with and in. On his way to great things, even if that was only in his mind. A man obsessed is probably the right word. Always working, thinking, bubbling, a state any great artists of any kind must be in order to be successful and horrible for his personal environment most likely. Don't we know who David Bowie or Jones was in his private life? The answer is right in front of us in this museum. Always working and on the move to a new concept, song, video, sleeve, clothing, hairstyle, etc.

The second great thing I came home with was his ability to work with the right people at the right time. Couturiers, video artists, photographers, stage outfits for all, sets, dancers, etc., he always found the right people for that part of his career. And musicians of course. The exhibition brought the audience as close to the creative process of being David Bowie as an exhibition can do.

The third thing is that Bowie touched a lot of people. It was a Thursday and the museum was packed. There were so many people and all my age or older. Perhaps the museum is "lucky" and that Bowie's passing away brought more people out, but still.

Photo: Wo.
The fourth thing is that I stood outside the exhibition and "finally" understood what an icon this man was. Something I never realised and did not really care for, was how he touched upon the lives of many. Speaking of an impact. That it did not matter how you dressed. That someone can be who he is and express him/herself that way. Gender and hetero, homo and bisexuality can all be mixed up. Just look at pictures of how the world looked like outside of Bowie's little universe in the early 70s and his outlandish outfits and make up are put in perspective.

The fifth thing is that David Bowie was a total human, incorporating influences from whatever would work for him. Different cultures, religions, life styles, music styles. Everything found a place into his universe and became a part of his expression. "He really loved music" someone comments in the exhibition and it shows in his work as it evolved beyond what his fans could follow at some points in time and caught on or not.

Finally I come back to the music. Bowie had become an artist of the past to me. Music that I know so well, that there is no need to play it often any more and I am writing on the 70s stuff here. Whether it was 'Jump', 'Little Wonder', 'Hello Space Boy' or 'Blackstar', all the "new" songs that came by in the exhibition, were fantastic and hold up easily to 'Starman', "Life On Mars', 'Word On A Wing', etc., etc. And then there is that first one, 'Space Oddity'. The little synthesizer that created some of the sounds is on display also. That may forever remain his best single to me. And I was reminded of how good 'Ashes To Ashes' is, something I tend to forget. Absolutely fabulous.

David Bowie Is is a total experience. Walking around with a headset the music is everywhere. All visitors are in their own universe with David Bowie and that's the final strong point of this exhibition. There's no one between you and the master, except the dozens of other people wanting to read a lyric sheet or watch a drawing of a costume of course. At those moments there often is the music.

My one main remaining question is, when did Bowie decide to keep it all? All these costumes, drawings, lyric sheets, etc.? At a very, very early stage. And now the world can see it all too. The man is no longer with us, David Bowie was, everything is left behind for us to enjoy. Am I glad that I went to Groningen. Over 6 hours of travelling was well worth the experience.


Tickets can be found on the website of the Groninger Museum until 10 April. Ordering up front is recommended. Sold out signs are known to be put up. After the 10th elsewhere in the world.

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