DAVID BOWIE'S VISUAL LIFE: A TRIBUTE - TEXT LUKE BATHER
2016 has truly started on a sad note, and the world is very much in mourning at the news of David Bowie’s passing just days after his 69th birthday and the release of his final album ‘Blackstar’.
Nobody needs reminding of the huge influence that Bowie had on the world - taking all that the world considered weird and forcing us all to admit that it was truly beautiful. The landscapes of music and film would be drastically different if it wasn’t for him and his loss will be felt for years to come.
Here then are a small selection of videos that capture the ever-changing genius and visionary that was David Bowie. Of course, they’re not the only ones - far from it - so forgive us this tiny snapshot of a vast, influential career.
1. Life on Mars? (1972, Dir. Mick Rock)
A simple, iconic piece of imagery. Bowie, decked out in a powder-blue suit and extravagant make-up, with film bleached-out so much that his skin practically glows. He stands in a brilliant-white void looking positively other-worldly.
2. Space Oddity (1972, Dir. Mick Rock)
Another collaboration with legendary photographer Mick Rock. Don’t be fooled by the simple nature of these videos. This one, washed in red light and peppered with imagery of analogue equipment, manages to make the ordinary seem alien and etch out imagery that becomes instantly memorable. 1972 was a long time before the popularisation of the music video - Bowie and Rock were two guys finding their feet with the combination of music and moving image. These early works are important simply for the fact that they exist at all.
3. Be My Wife (1977, Dir. Stanley Dorfman)
As anybody who’s listened to a Bowie record, or even just seen the cover to Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ album will know, he’s no stranger to self-reference. This 1977 clip harks back to Life on Mars? from five years earlier. A simple white backdrop, bleach-white fades between shots and Bowie alone in this space. This time accompanied by a guitar and making his best attempt at ‘normal’. In doing so, he becomes his most surreal. A being recreating what he’s observed of normality from afar. The guitar stroking and the facial contortions that almost resemble a smile. It’s subversive to the core.
4. Ashes to Ashes (1980, Dir. David Mallet & David Bowie)
Mallet and Bowie collaborated several times throughout the 80s but no video came close to matching the brilliant Ashes to Ashes. It’s dated as hell and has been through the pop culture reference mill so many times that it’s bordering on cliche at this point, but it’s a bold and heavily stylistic video, switching from heavily contrasted and saturated scenery to bizarre chroma experiments that helped to shape how we remember the 80s (for better or worse).
5. Lazarus (2016, Dir. Johan Renck)
Skipping forward massively now to just 12 days ago when this beautiful video for Lazarus was released. Presenting a tortured Bowie on his deathbed in a gorgeous, deep and dark video presented in 1:1 aspect ratio. Looking back as much as forward - it was a chilling video upon release and now a new poignance has been heaped upon it so quickly after.
Somewhere in all this I stumbled upon a sentiment that I’ll echo here: David Bowie knew how to make an entrance, but when he saw the exit coming he kicked it clean off it’s hinges.
Rest in Peace.