David Bowie – Interpersonal Rockstar

To many of us who are self-confined to the labels – queer, outsider, lonely, misfit, weird – David Bowie became an icon for our collective non-normative status long before his recent passing. A week after he died, whilst attending a celebratory evening in his honour, I experienced the sensation of him as a unifying force, a human bridge between the queer and the hetero-normative, an important symbol of transcending your circumstances and tolerating the exotic colours of humanity while riding the waves of constant metamorphosis that life entails.

At this packed pub on Lygon street, it was the first time I have personally felt safe in a large crowd of people appearing as I do – a wordsmith friend once said, that I resemble, a ‘colourful aneurysm’ – and as we sang all the words to his songs and moved like a mass of seaweed in a storm, a delirious feeling of calm descended over me. It was joyful, everyone was both mournful and mirthful under the spotlights, and it had the feeling of an Irish wake.

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I was reminded of his fearlessness in presenting an image to the world which at the time, and even today, is still inflammatory. My own presentation being both flamboyant and androgynous attracts similar attention as Bowie must have received for most of his early career. It gives me and many others strength to know that he managed to rise above it by using it as a vehicle of unrelenting self-expression and experimentation.

He held this identities, these ‘characters’ as lightly as a feather, although notoriously he had a hard time letting his ultimate alter-ego ‘Ziggy Stardust’ die. This self invented personality was first shown on a date which proves to be a seismic cultural shift in a Britain (and Commonwealth), having gown accustomed to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones came like a technicolour comet the Starman: Ziggy Stardust, with odd eyes, hair tangerine orange, white painted fingernails and a jumpsuit of quilted silk; the 5 July, 1972, was the glittering broadside, which one could claim, helped supercharge the Sexual Revolutions of the 1970s.

He showed that you could be both effeminate and still retain masculinity, that expressions of identity could be fluid instead of drably fixed, he made this performativity of gender evident by exploring it in his film clips and TV performances, which in turn allowed a wider audience than the gender variant underground to become aware of diversity in self-expression without the need for superfluous shame.

This effect also gave rise to wider cultural movements within the same decade, the most prominent being punk and finally New Romanticism. These movements can be seen as resulting from the growing idea of expression above all else, from music to fashion, film to art what became important was not so much the execution but the concept itself, much like Bowie.

He became an iconoclast for these movements and his constant experimentation allowed new generations in the succeeding decades to discover some new resonance with him.

His death marks not only a pop cultural sign-post, but also puts an end to a voice which is often unheard in the mainstream music or media, that of a fiercely individual person, fearlessly and curiously exploring his art with risk and undeniable pluck.

Now he, like his Works are for the ages.

 

RIS (Rest in Space), Starman.

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