David Bowie and Artistic Suicide

1263880_10151603205387665_1352405099_oOn Sunday, the world lost the greatest artist, singer and songwriter – David Bowie. For many of us, we lost a hero, an artist, and a renegade.

Few artists and musicians have been able to straddle the world of theatrics and musical nexus as powerful as David Bowie. David showed us how fearlessness and theatrics work together in creating the most powerful and potent art form. Hinged on role-subversions, alter-ego hopping and artistic exhibitionism, his style continues to inspire stage art, costumes, magazine covers and so many other spaces of artistic creations. Everywhere you look today, there are a million memories, infinite experiences, and about dozens of inspired reincarnations of Bowie.

But to be inspired by David Bowie’s work is to find ways to break away from the patterns that get cemented into the fabric of our lifestyle (and sometimes our artist expression). To be inspired by David Bowie’s work is to remember his restless curiosity that sought change from the time and again. Change that did not fear transgression into the boundaries of race, sex and class. Change that is the death of all things known. ‘Artistic suicide’ as they famously call it. And last but not the least, to remember that the theatrics that empowers our art must be fueled by emotions and not by virility of the medium. Ironically, the art that shakes the foundation of the very construct of norms and patterns often gives birth to a concrete concept that gets regurgitated over and over in different ways. That is exactly what David Bowie was not. Restless change, nonconformity and artistic courage is what remains truly under the layers of his art. Rest is great packaging and mastering reinvention.

Artistic suicide is an interesting study. It is a process where an artist sheds his mould to be reborn as something completely different. David Bowie shed his alter egos – Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Alladin Sane, Thin White Duke to become a new movement. This way, an artist gets beyond the carnival of rusting fan nostalgia and repetitive glory to create a blank space for a new style to emerge.

If an artist is more than a sum of his parts, the parts that inspired him never truly make him what he/she is. You can never put together these parts to resurrect the artist. But to drown in those million parts can help us get a little closer to the artist that became. And in a way hope to resurface back with him.

So after shuffling through our favourite David Bowie songs here is something more to absorb. David Bowie’s official Facebook fan page has a compilation of his Top 100 Books to read (listed below). His favourite books are as fascinatingly diverse as his alter-egos. I am starting with ‘Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley’.

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

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Interviews With Francis Bacon by David Sylvester
Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse
Room At The Top by John Braine
On Having No Head by Douglass Harding
Kafka Was The Rage by Anatole Broyard
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
City Of Night by John Rechy
The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Iliad by Homer
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Tadanori Yokoo by Tadanori Yokoo
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
Inside The Whale And Other Essays by George Orwell
Mr. Norris Changes Trains by Christopher Isherwood
Halls Dictionary Of Subjects And Symbols In Art by James A. Hall
David Bomberg by Richard Cork
Blast by Wyndham Lewis
Passing by Nella Larson
Beyond The Brillo Box by Arthur C. Danto
The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes
In Bluebeard’s Castle by George Steiner
Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
The Divided Self by R. D. Laing
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Infants Of The Spring by Wallace Thurman
The Quest For Christa T by Christa Wolf
The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin
Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter
The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodieby Muriel Spark
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Herzog by Saul Bellow
Puckoon by Spike Milligan
Black Boy by Richard Wright
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima
Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
The Waste Land by T.S. Elliot
McTeague by Frank Norris
Money by Martin Amis
The Outsider by Colin Wilson
Strange People by Frank Edwards
English Journey by J.B. Priestley
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Day Of The Locust by Nathanael West
1984 by George Orwell
The Life And Times Of Little Richard by Charles White
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn
Mystery Train by Greil Marcus
Beano (comic, ’50s)
Raw (comic, ’80s)
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom by Peter Guralnick
Silence: Lectures And Writing by John Cage
Writers At Work: The Paris Review Interviews edited by Malcolm Cowley
The Sound Of The City: The Rise Of Rock And Roll by Charlie Gillete
Octobriana And The Russian Underground by Peter Sadecky
The Street by Ann Petry
Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
Last Exit To Brooklyn By Hubert Selby, Jr.
A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn
The Age Of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
The Coast Of Utopia by Tom Stoppard
The Bridge by Hart Crane
All The Emperor’s Horses by David Kidd
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos
Tales Of Beatnik Glory by Ed Saunders
The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
Nowhere To Run The Story Of Soul Music by Gerri Hirshey
Before The Deluge by Otto Friedrich
Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson by Camille Paglia
The American Way Of Death by Jessica Mitford
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Teenage by Jon Savage
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Viz (comic, early ’80s)
Private Eye (satirical magazine, ’60s – ’80s)
Selected Poems by Frank O’Hara
The Trial Of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
Maldodor by Comte de Lautréamont
On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler
Zanoni by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Transcendental Magic, Its Doctine and Ritual by Eliphas Lévi
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Leopard by Giusseppe Di Lampedusa
Inferno by Dante Alighieri
A Grave For A Dolphin by Alberto Denti di Pirajno
The Insult by Rupert Thomson
In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan
A People’s Tragedy by Orlando Figes
Journey Into The Whirlwind by Eugenia Ginzburg
Goodbye Bowie. Goodbye Aladdin Sane. Goodbye Major Tom. Goodbye Ziggy Stardust. Goodbye Halloween Jack. Goodbye The Thin White Duke.

We will be dying to see the next avatar you will be turning into. Call it a futuristic nostalgia. We don’t know what it will be or where it will be. But as you promised, we know, it sure won’t be boring.

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