Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bowie in 2003

I was listening to an NPR interview with Bowie from September 2003, and I decided to would write down some thoughts here.

In an interview with Terry Gross from sometime in 2002, aired on the WHYY Philadelphia radio programme "Fresh Air" on 19 September 2003 (distributed by National Public Radio in the United States), Bowie claims that he has not manufactured any personae since 1975 (except for the characters which he portrays in 1. Outside). When he portrayed Ziggy Stardust in the early 1970s, he did so for only 18 months, though he is known among the general public particularly for that persona. He claims that he gets quite bored of performance: "I don't live for the stage. I don't live for an audience."

This is a particularly curious statement for Bowie to make, but sheds light on much of his later career. How can a celebrity be bored of performance or be unconcerned for an audience? Bowie seems to exist in a tension between these forces: he requires an audience to be a celebrity but has a level of disregard for it. Once the mid-1990s arrives, Bowie shows a disdain for the audience (whether it is genuine or not is difficult to ascertain, though his comments in the interview with Gross might suggest that it is).

This tension, though, is part of what makes Bowie such a compelling figure. Consider the following visual metaphor for Bowie's actions: while using his hands to shield himself from the light of the audience, Bowie makes sure that his fingers are slightly apart so that the audience can see him just a little bit. But I argue that even what they see is then hidden.