Learning from David Bowie
Enough has been said, written, reported, figured out and speculated. So this is a small personal note. I learned a lot from David Bowie.
I learned that art is for all. I learned that challenging and innovative creative work can transform mainstream culture. I learned to challenge convention and accept being challenged when I least expected it. I learned funk. I learned about the avant-garde. I learned about Brian Eno. I learned from an artist who crossed boundaries of race, gender and culture.
Bowie understood that culture is context and played it as if an instrument. To the very end. Listen to “Blackstar” today and you listen in the knowledge that he is dead. It affects the way you feel about the song. He knew that would be the context. He knew, and played with it as a final performance. He had been playing with context all his life and often he struck a chord, across music, performance, fashion and the so called art world. He dragged artists like Lindsay Kemp and Tony Osler into a pop world where cliche is the lingua franca of typically vapid work and made it original. He made it art.
Listen to the voices from around the world, the extraordinary number of people who claim he influenced them. His influence is incredible. Imagine if we learned one thing from him? What would that one thing be? Can there only be one thing? For me it would be that pop culture is an instrument not a medium. It is important, but only if you play with it, make it say new things and, crucially, if you love your audience enough to change them.
And be a rock god, put on a great show.
Enough has been said. But then again, maybe there remains a lot more. I loved David Bowie. I love his music. I love his inspiration. I write this from Tokyo, I guess I must “be under the Japanese influence”.