I and around 300,000 others shuffled to the V&A to gawk at shiny cat suits and big projections of a skinny, effeminate creature writhing around stage in a knitted onesie. Anyone else and this might’ve been weird. But this is David Bowie and not only is it accepted, it’s expected.
So imagine my delight when all his outrageous outfits, his scrawling handwritten lyrics, his movie-props among other things were collected in the museum. It was a unique celebration of the pop icon: his music, style and character. Can I live there? Sadly not, and I was desperate to go back or at least peek at everything again without being herded around with the other glam rock sympathisers. Then, on the 13th August, the Victoria and Albert Museum planned a live cinema event exploring the exhibition before the pieces were boxed up and shipped out on tour. Perfect!
Fifteen minutes to air and Bowie hits played over images of V&A visitors holding up signs of their answers to the phrase ‘David Bowie is…’ with some interesting interpretations.
It began in the exhibition’s performance room with the hosts, curators Victoria Broakes and Geoffrey Marsh. Their live moments were scattered through the evening, although understandably nerve-racking, were a tad uncomfortable to watch.
It was a well-rounded exploration of Bowie’s life; beginning with his school days and his love of Little Richard and literature. It paid close attention to the pinnacle Top of the Pops moment and Space Oddity success as well as a celebration of his style, live performances and writing techniques.
It was refreshing to hear how the man of the evening had made an impression on so many. Jarvis Cocker spoke about his lyrics, Kansai Yamamoto joked of his surprise when Bowie chose to wear one of his women’s outfits on stage, and Paul Morley chatted about the significance of the Berlin years.
The music and his infectious character coursed through the cinema. The screening gave an additional insight into the man and gave extra trivial snippets, did you know Kate Moss wore his suit from the Life on Mars video and they had to let it out!?
The finale, a rendition of Heroes to the law enforcement of New York soon after 9/11, was an unusually stark end to such a triumphant screening.
It’s clear from the fact that there was a screening planned that Bowie is something to everyone. The evening felt like a chance for people to profess what the beautiful alien means to them. If anything makes you go back home and pop on Hunky Dory or press play on The Man Who Fell to Earth it’s this. As if we ever need an excuse.